This week is National Infertility Week. As someone who supports many couples struggling to conceive, I felt it important to raise awareness. Whilst I claim to work intuitively, I also like to back up much of what I say with statistics and evidence. As pregnancy can be impeded by negative thoughts some of these numbers can be reassuring.
In 2003, Wang et al studied 518 newly married couples between the ages of twenty and thirty-four. Of these couples 50% became pregnant in the first two cycles and 90% in the first six cycles. Another study in 2003 looked at 346 women; this study analysed the cumulative probability of conception and found that a total of 310 pregnancies occurred;
- 38% within one month
- 68% within three months
- 81% within six months
- 92% within twelve months.
Broken down this works out to the following;
Approx. 118 couples conceived within one month, 93 couples conceived within three months, 40 couples conceived within six months, 34 couples conceived within twelve months and a further 25 couples conceived but after twelve months. 36 women did not fall pregnant.
This study indicates that it takes most couples more than six months to conceive. According to Evers, 2002 infertility can be considered when a woman has not become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse during the fertile period of her cycle. If you have been trying to conceive for more than one year it is beneficial to speak with a specialist that can run some tests to see whether there are any reasons for this. It would also be valuable to take a functional approach to becoming pregnant.
Hypnotherapy, or talking therapy can be a huge part of getting pregnant. A study completed in 1989 investigating a mind body programme showed that;
“a behavioral treatment approach might be efficacious in the treatment of the emotional aspects of infertility and may lead to increased conception rates.” (Domar, 1989)
with 34% of the – previously considered infertile – women in the study becoming pregnant after following the mind body programme.
So, how can therapy help?
Therapy can be beneficial for those at the beginning of their journey to conception and those further down the road. It is my biased opinion that therapy is beneficial for everyone regardless of whether there is a “problem”.
I am going to explain a few ways in which I work with my clients that are preparing to fall pregnant or in the process of trying.
- Relaxation; The American Society of Reproductive Medicine have an interesting article on their website that gives a clear overview of the affect of stress on fertility. They believe that stress can damage the unique balance of hormones that conception is dependent on. They also mention the lower IVF success rates for those couples that report feelings of stress. A big problem is that many people do not realise their body is under stress. You can see my previous blog on stress to learn more about the stressed state and how I work with people to move away from it into a more relaxed state. Stress can cause a physical block to conception but can also result in psychological difficulties. Stress can result in withdrawal from sources of support and struggles with decision making, two things that are of huge importance when conception is impeded, or fertility treatment is underway or being considered. By speaking with a therapist, the body can move out of the physical stressed state whilst the mind can become relaxed and clear.
- Someone to talk to; infertility can cause a whole range of emotions. Many people do have a support network, for those that don’t finding a therapist can be vital. Those that do have a support network may still find that a therapist becomes a preferable option. Whilst friends are ‘a shoulder to cry on’ it’s also nice to have a therapist to lean on and friends to have fun with. It may also be the case that friends and family are so emotionally invested in your welfare that speaking to someone outside of this circle is easier.
- Finding coping mechanisms. How often do we use or hear the phrase; “just relax and it will happen”. Unfortunately, the words just relax do not tend to lead to relaxation! It may be that you need to learn some techniques that you can use daily. Some people expect hypnotherapy to be something that is done to them, imagining that they will have a session and leave fixed. In reality it is so much more than that. Within each session you can learn techniques, specifically for the situations you find difficult to manage, tools to use when alone making every-day life easier.
- Changing unnecessary beliefs. Many women have been told by doctors that they will struggle to conceive, despite there not being much evidence to back this up. Others have beliefs from childhood or thoughts passed on from elders that struggled to fall pregnant. These preconceived ideas can be harmful and may need to be turned around. In the same way some people have mental blocks, such as a fear of pregnancy or aspects of pregnancy. A worry that they will not be a good parent, or other beliefs that may impede the conception process.
- Accepting and moving on; some may decide that enough is enough. It is time to end the journey and focus on life as it is. Therapy can be really beneficial in this instance, helping with the emotions that this may bring. Finding new ways to look at life. Feeling content with a life that does not contain children, or perhaps as many children as you once thought.
- Visualisation can be incredibly powerful, particularly when there is explained infertility. Visualisation alongside positive thinking can be used in so many ways it is a whole other blog post. The ways in which therapy can help with infertility are not limited to the above explanations but for now I would like to leave those of you that are preparing to fall pregnant or trying to fall pregnant with a visualisation that I use regularly within my sessions. If you are reading out of interest but have someone in mind that may find this helpful it would be great if you could pass it on.
(If you are choosing to stop trying to conceive this visualisation may not be for you. I would be very happy to work with you to find a way to make the new road as exciting.)
Visualisations work well if you find a comfortable quiet spot where you will not be interrupted. It’s nice to close your eyes whilst you use the visualisation. Give yourself some time. I would like you to take a journey in your mind from conception to when you child is a teenager. You can begin with the day you get your positive pregnancy test result. Really make the imagery vivid in your mind. You can bring in smells, sounds, temperature. Notice the clothes you are wearing, where you are, whether there is anyone with you. Who you tell first, second, third. Really feel the feelings of getting that positive pregnancy test result.
When you have spent some time on that move forwards to the end of your first trimester. You are three months pregnant, do all of the above again. Here, if you have not done so already, you may start to consider what route you will take in pregnancy. It’s normal to be offered a scan at this stage – is this something you want? Perhaps you will have already had one at an earlier stage so it will not be your first or maybe you will not want one at all. Really begin to think about these things and as above notice everything about this time.
Move forward to being six months pregnant and nine months, following all of the above. Then do the same for your birth. This you can spend longer focusing on, it is an important part of your journey and there are lots of things to consider. Home, hospital, pool or not. Natural or more medical. Will you be hypnobirthing or are you happy without. So many things to consider. You can imagine your birth experience. Really take note of what it feels like to hold your baby in your arms for the first time.
Next you can spend some time visualising those early baby days, again so many things to consider, what is it like for you with a newborn?
Continue moving through the ages, slowly, from newborn to six months, your baby is beginning to explore food. One year as your baby is probably learning to crawl or walk, the toddler years. Around five years when your child may start at school and then older, ten, eleven and into the teens. What is it like to be the mum of a teenager? Do you have other children aswell?
This is a great journey and one you can spend a long time visualising. The more detail you go into the longer it will take but also the more beneficial it will be. Spend time focusing on your feelings. You can do this every day, many times a day if you wish.
If there is anything you would like to discuss about your journey I can offer you a free initial consultation to do so.
Domar, A.D., Seibel, M.M. and Benson, H., 1990. The mind/body program for infertility: a new behavioral treatment approach for women with infertility. Fertility and sterility, 53(2), pp.246-249.
Evers, J.L., 2002. Female subfertility. The Lancet, 360(9327), pp.151-159.
Gnoth, C., Godehardt, D., Godehardt, E., Frank‐Herrmann, P. and Freundl, G., 2003. Time to pregnancy: results of the German prospective study and impact on the management of infertility. Human reproduction, 18(9), pp.1959-1966.
Wang X, Chen C, Wang L, Chen D, Guang W and French J ( 2003 ) Conception, early pregnancy loss, and time to clinical pregnancy: a population-based prospective study. Fertil Steril 79 , 577 –584.