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Women Finding Peace of Mind on their Fertility Journey

by Russell Davis(more info)

listed in fertility, originally published in issue 222 - May 2015

‘Daddy, Daddy tell me it again!’ My friends’ son excitedly asked to hear the story again. I was feeling fine until I heard those words. Suddenly I felt sick, overwhelmed by a fear that I may never hear someone call me Daddy.

There is no doubt that infertility is stressful; however I think many people under-estimate just how stressful it can be. One study by Harvard University demonstrated that the stress levels of women experiencing infertility were equivalent to those with AIDS, cancer and heart disease.[1] And no-one tells them to “just relax”!

This stress can significantly impact a couples chances of getting pregnant. The pituitary gland in the brain controls the levels of our stress hormones and fertility hormones. I believe that too many couples go through fertility treatment unnecessarily and that the success rate of treatment is unnecessarily low due to the care of the mind and emotions not being a factor in the journey. My wife’s and my personal experience and my clinical experience echoes this. There are also an increasing number of studies that demonstrate this; more on these later.

Women Finding Peace of Mind on their Fertility Journey

It is often referred to as ‘the fertility emotional roller coaster’ because we can go from hope to despair in moments. The good news is that women (and men) can find peace of mind without giving up the journey.

My wife and I had a 10-year journey to conceiving our son. My wife was diagnosed as being potentially infertile as a teenager and we knew it was unlikely that we would have children. We thought we were OK with this and thought we could always foster or adopt and give love to children needing it.

After going on a more holistic healing journey herself, my wife’s fertility was restored and it was only then that we got in touch with our deep desire to have our own children. The ‘we will be OK, we can foster’ thinking had been a protection mechanism shielding us from pain and disappointment. After a year or so of being unsuccessful, we knew something else must be wrong. I had my first test and my results were so bad the doctor asked when I’d had chemotherapy or had I ever been exposed to dangerous radiation!

I tried all sorts of things to improve my results: Acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, removing my mobile phone from my pocket, baggy pants! But a test five months later showed that my fertility had actually decreased (looking back I would credit this to my fear of it not improving and not because the things I did aren’t potentially helpful). It was then that I gave trying to improve things. The clinic said that Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) - where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg - was a potential possibility but even that wasn’t looking favourable with my results. As far as I was concerned it was down to them, there was nothing more I can do.

In the meantime my wife was grieving the possibility of having children. Part of her didn’t want to, she didn’t want to be the other side of the process, she thought it meant giving up the journey. She didn’t want to face her grief and emerge from it as a woman at peace with not bearing her own children. But there came a point where the avoidance of the grief became intolerable and so she did her journey, facing the reality of her grief and pain. She found that actually the her on the other side was someone who was at peace but willing to continue the journey from that place of peace.

I however began to recognize that I was avoiding my own feelings, that I had been doing so all my life.

Eventually I too went on a journey of self-discovery: Facing and feeling my own pain, letting go of my limiting thoughts and beliefs (e.g. that having children was the only way I could experience fulfilment and happiness), and I starting taking control of my life, my own happiness and recognizing that whatever happens, I can be happy and fulfilled.

In the end, we conceived naturally ahead of our ICSI treatment. The doctors told us it would be a one in a billion chance of it happening.

Looking back we can see how much our minds played a role in the journey. I now work with women (and men) all over the world to find their peace without giving up, to be happy now, and harness the power of the mind-body link to help them get pregnant whether through natural or assisted conception. When we are not at peace there is stress in our system which can impact our physical well-being and particularly the delicate cocktail of hormones required for reproduction.

So what prevents us from being at peace? It is a misunderstanding as to where our feelings come from. We generally think that our feelings result from our situation or circumstances. “My job is stressful” for example. However the truth is that all our feelings stem from our thinking about ourselves and our circumstances. We live in the experience of our thinking.

Why is it that two people can go through the same circumstances and yet have very different experiences? It is because their perception of those circumstances, their thinking, is different.

As humans we can get sucked into believing that it’s anything but our thinking. But this is simply because ‘thinking’ is a master of illusion. Just like watching a film you enjoy; at times you forget that it’s only a film. Our thinking creates the illusion that we are feeling our circumstances that is so plausible and believable that we fall for it, and as a result, we then have the feeling that comes from that thinking. Often we are not aware of the thinking but are feeling the resulting feeling.

So why does thinking do this? It does it out of habit, a habit you learnt at a young age.

Let’s start at the beginning. When we come into the world we have innate well-being within us. Look a little children, they just play in the moment. They are not worried about tomorrow or hung up about yesterday. They are being in the moment. We are human ‘beings’.

However as we go through life, particularly when we are younger and our emotional intelligence is not fully formed, our thinking about situations can mean we start to think our sense of being OK is dependent on things outside of us. Perhaps things such as meeting parents or teachers expectations or what our peers think of us.

In the absence of our emotional intelligence this thinking may have served us in some way when we were younger. As a child I thought I had to behave in a certain way to get a positive response from my mother. I thought my wellbeing (feeling loved and lovable) was dependent on what I did. Looking back, I know she loved me and she did the best she could with the resources she had available. However when we are in the experience as a child we don’t have that adult perspective; our thinking does what it thinks it needs to in order to feel loved and lovable. This thinking can then become a thinking habit that we bring in to our adult lives. We see the world through the lenses of that childlike thinking (“I’m OK if…” or “I’m OK when…”).

We begin to look outside ourselves for a sense of being OK when it is within us; we are born with it.

When we see the misunderstanding of what’s behind our experience in any moment we can then tune in to our innate wellbeing and know that whatever happens we will be OK, because it is not dependent on circumstances.

It doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a baby or that there is anything wrong with wanting to have a baby. There is nothing wrong with dreams, goals and aspirations. However, the moment we think our happiness and well-being is in some way dependent upon those things, they move from being a choice to a need. That is when the fear and desperation can appear. Fear of it not happening, as subconsciously we are believing that we need it in order to be OK.

But a different possibility exists. We can shift from an ‘outside-in’ perspective to an ‘inside-out’ perspective. We can realize that our innate well-being is within us and can stop looking for it through circumstances, relationships and other things. We can then let go of the stories our thinking tells us and re-connect with our innate well-being. The well-being we were born with that has been masked, drowned out by the brass band of thinking (and resulting feelings).

So how do you do this? For me, it is about a change in heart about the nature of thought and feeling and what’s behind the human experience. Here also are three things that help my clients let go of their thinking and re-tune in to their innate well-being.

Women Finding Peace of Mind on their Fertility Journey

3-5 Breathing

This technique utilizes a natural biological relaxation process (increasing the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe in) as well as bringing your mind back to the present moment. Focusing on your breathing brings you back to the ‘here and now’ rather than time travelling to the future worrying about the next pregnancy test or fertility treatment outcomes.

  • Simply concentrate on your breathing and count in your head from 1-3 as you breathe in and from 1-5 as you exhale;
  • It doesn’t need to be big breaths, just normal relaxed breathing adjusting the pace of the counting to give you a nice relaxed breath;
  • If your mind wanders just bring it gently back to your breath. The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it any time, any place without anyone knowing what you are doing.

Mind-Body Programs

Harvard did a studyalongside Boston IVF comparing the success rates of patients undergoing IVF to those that participated in a mind-body programme alongside their IVF treatment.[2] The success rate of those that did not participate in the program was 20% compared to a success rate of 52% for those that participated in the mind-body group.  

Finding a way of getting yourself into the optimum state psychologically can have a profound effect on your biology.

The Learner Institute carried out a study where a group of volunteers visualized exercising their little finger for a few minutes a day over a period of 12 weeks.[3] By the end of the 12 week study the muscle strength of the group visualizing had improved by 35% and continued improving to 40% four weeks after the study and training had ended.

This is one of many studies demonstrating the link between the mind and body.

Hypnosis

One way of letting go of our habitual thinking is the use of hypnosis.

According to a study presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in 2004, hypnosis can effectively double the success of IVF treatments.[4] The study was conducted to determine if hypnosis and relaxation techniques could improve the success IVF.

The study found that 28% of the women who were hypnotized for the IVF treatment became pregnant, compared to 14% of the women in the control group. Previous studies had demonstrated that the stress of the IVF procedure created small contractions of the uterus that prevented the successful implantation of the fertilized egg. This led to Professor Levitas studying hypnosis for IVF having previously used medications such as tranquillizers in previous studies; none of these worked as well as hypnosis.

References

  1. Domar AD, et al. The Psychological Impact of Infertility: A Comparison with Patients with Other Medical Conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology 14 Suppl.: pp45–52, 1993.
  2. Domar AD et al. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility. Vol. 95. No 7. 2011.
  3. V. Ranganathan, V. Siemionow, J. Liu, V. Sahgal, and G. Yue, From mental power to muscle power - gaining strength by using the mind, Neuropsychologia 42. pp944–956, 2004.
  4. Levitas, E. et al. Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertility and Sterility. Vol 85. Issue 5. pp1404–1408. 2006.

Bibliography

Bruce Lipton. The Biology of Belief. Hay House Publishing. 2008.

Dr David Hamilton PhD. Your Mind Can Heal Your Body. Hay House Publishing. 2008.

Dr Bernie Siegel. Love, Miracles and Medicine. Rider; New Ed edition. 1999.

Ellen Langer. Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Hodder. 2010.

Jack Pransky. Somebody Should Have Told Us. CCB Publishing. 2011.

Michael Neill. The Inside Out Revolution. Hay House Publishing. 2013.

Jamie Smart. Clarity: Clear Mind, Better Performance, Bigger Results. Capstone. 2013.

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About Russell Davis

Russell Davis Dip CogHyp HPD MLP MNCH Acc HypSup, fertility Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist has helped hundreds of couples all over the world move from despair to hope to success. Russell, the Fertility Specialist Advisor to The National Council of Hypnotherapy, founded The Fertile Mind fertility mind-body programs and coaching based on he and his wife’s 10-year double infertility journey which resulted in the natural conception of their son. Russell’s experience echoes his belief that too many couples go through fertility treatment unnecessarily and that the success rate of treatment is unnecessarily low. 

Download his free Getting Started pack from www.thefertilemind.net

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