Chill Baby, Chill - The Stress-Infertility Link and Why Yoga Might Help

Updated: 
December 06, 2017

Preparing to have a baby should be one of the most joyful times of your life, but a growing number of women struggle with infertility and all the anxiety and uncertainty that entails. An increasing number of patients and doctors are turning to alternative methods, including yoga for fertility to supplement more traditional fertility methods. According to preliminary studies, yoga may help more than double fertility rates in women having trouble conceiving.

About 6.1 million or 11.6 percent of women of childbearing age in the U.S. have fertility problems, according to the the CDC, which means they have difficulty both getting or staying pregnant. For these women, the emotional toll and uncertain outcome of standard medical treatments can be nerve wrecking.

Women trying to conceive are traditionally advised to make major lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking, alcohol, and caffeine; eating a more wholesome diet; and most difficult of all, avoiding stressful situations.

Stress raises the level of cortisol in the brain, a “fight or flight” hormone that can inhibit reproductive function.  In fact, when you’re chronically stressed, your reproductive system slows down, or in extreme cases, stops all together.  But women who have difficulty conceiving experience rates of depression and anxiety on par with people suffering from terminal illnesses.  It’s a vicious cycle; fertility problems cause stress, and stress causes fertility problems.

This has led researchers to seek out alternatives like yoga to help women, who struggle with fertility issues. Yoga offers a gentle form of exercise, it promotes inner peace, and it can be used to target specific areas of the body, making it an ideal therapy for women with fertility problems.

These theories were confirmed  by a recent study by Dr. Alice Domar, a researcher at Harvard Medical School.  She took women who had been trying to conceive for at least a year and put them in a 10-week mind/body program that included fertility yoga, meditation, nutrition and exercise information, and therapeutic support for negative thought patterns.  Fifty-five percent of the participants became pregnant within the next year, compared to 20 percent of the women in the control group.

As a result of this study,  Dr. Domar uses a similar mind/body program when treating her patients at Boston IVF, the country’s biggest In Vitro Fertilization clinic.  She says restorative yoga, an “effortless” form of yoga designed to relax the body and brain, is an essential part of her program.

In addition to fighting stress and the accompanying hormone imbalance, some experts also speculate that certain fertility yoga poses can help you conceive by stimulating blood flow to reproductive organs, opening up the pelvic and hip area, and improving your body’s energy flow.  To balance hormones, yoga experts recommend supported head and shoulder stands, as well as the Bridge Pose. Forward bends like the Child’s Pose are recommended for rejuvenation, and the Lotus Pose, Reclining Bound Angle Pose, and Reclining Hero Pose send blood to the reproductive area.

Attempting to get pregnant can be an anxiety-ridden time. But the restorative power of yoga for infertility can provide you with a nurturing, relaxing experience that can help you create a new life while fostering your own inner peace.