Women who have a hard time becoming pregnant often turn to standard medical interventions. These include many cycles of medicine, tests, and doctors appointments, in addition to the emotional roller coaster of worry, fear, doubt, anticipation, hope, and disappointment that this process often invokes. This standard medical process can be so intense that “when psychologists look at the stress of being infertile, it’s right up there with losing a first relative or a child or a husband and a wife. It’s a major stress and it’s a major loss for patients.” Woman who are searching for an alternative method of promoting fertility are now looking into yoga. While there is not yet much scientific evidence to support the efficacy of yoga as a fertility treatment, programs focused on yoga for fertility are gaining momentum and acceptance with practitioners, teachers, and medical professionals.
Most proponents of yoga as a fertility aide believe that yoga’s primary benefit is it’s ability to ease the stress and worry in trying to conceive. Stress reduction is not only helpful for the mental and physical health of the hopeful mother to be (and her loved ones); in some cases it is critical for success. A study published last year linked elevated stress levels to a reduction in the probability of conception.
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In addition to helping women relax, yoga for fertility classes also provide a supportive environment where women are able to talk about their experiences with others who are in similar situations. Yoga instructor Tracy Toon Spencer of Fertile Life, Inc in New York City states the "practice provides a community, a place where women can gather and take inspiration from one another. … They feel much less isolated so they feel better and they’re more relaxed."
As recently as two decades ago, some medical professionals laughed at the idea that yoga could beneficially effect fertility rates. When health psychologist Dr. Alice Domer first published research on the topic in 1990 she encountered resistance from physicians and medical organizations. Today she serves on the Board of a national infertility organization, Resolve, and has delivered talks on the mind-body connection to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
It may be a while before yoga is standard practice at all fertility clinics, but there are resources out there for those who do not have access to these specialized classes. Look for classes in your area that are gentle or restorative. You can also check out the YogaBasics Yoga Rx for Infertility article or the Fertile Flow yoga pose sequence.
Instructor Brenda Strong encourages women to remember “in yoga, suffering is caused by attachment to a result or by resistance”. Infertility brings these issues up for women, she says, because “you’re attached to wanting to get pregnant and you’re resistant to the fact that you can’t.” Being in the moment with your practice may help you notice when these feelings are creeping in off the mat.