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The Mind-body connection and infertility

The brain and how it impacts fertility
Is there a connection between the mind and fertility?

How does your mind and body connection impact your fertility?

You know – logically – that your mind and body are connected, right? But exactly how powerful is that connection you may ask?

Ever been on a road trip and just as you’re about to turn into your street you need (sometimes desperately) to pee? You see your body knows instinctively you’re nearly home.

Maybe you’ve been out and about, and you’ve smelled something that takes you straight back to a memory?

For example, for me, my grandfather was a baker, and I can be anywhere and smell freshly, baked bread and all I can think of is my grandfather. It’s a thing!

Or have you heard the loud screech of brakes followed by the sound of a crash and – even though you know you’re completely fine and unharmed – your heart is hammering, your breathing becomes quick and shallow, and your hands are sweaty? This is because your body has gone into panic because you might remember a time you’ve been in an accident yourself – or someone you know has. It’s real!

These situations are all examples of the mind-body connection. We humans are just incredible, our operating system is one whole system. Our minds are connected with our bodies. It’s fascinating!

So you see what you think influences how your body reacts. And, what your body senses releases activity in our brains (minds). It’s all connected. One whole being – completely connected.

What does this actually mean?

Western medicine has evolved to believing that the mind and the body are separate … but they aren’t. In her ground-breaking documentary, The Connection, Shannon Harvey asked why, when she was stressed, her auto-immune disease worsened. The answer – you guessed it, the mind-body connection.

Watching The Connection was my first introduction to the MindBody Program for Fertility. Shannon – who I’m honoured to know – interviewed Dr Alice Domar from Boston IVF (who went on to personally train me in the Mindbody Program for Fertility). Shannon also interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn (known for developing MBSR - Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) and Dr Herbert Benson, founder of the Benson-Henry Institute, about the Relaxation Response. Dr Domar and Dr Benson worked together at the Harvard Medical School, and between the three of them, they have greatly influenced the western medical world to acknowledge the mind-body connection.

I was hooked.

Is the mind-body connection new?

The simple answer is no. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine has focused on the mind-body connection for centuries.

In 1964 psychiatrist George Solomon investigated the links between emotions and rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time Herbert Benson was researching the connection between the mind and the body’s ability to heal, and he coined the now famous term “relaxation response” when he found the body had a systemic response to meditation and started to heal. In 1975 Robert Ader supported this by showing how emotions impacted the immune system.

So, as you can see none of this is new. All of this research set the scene for Mindbody medicine as we know it today, and the introduction of the MindBody Program for Fertility.

What is the MindBody Program for Fertility and how does it work?

As a human you have an incredible mind. You need to remember that nature got it right. Your body knows exactly what to do when it’s presented with stress in your environment and works hard to keep you safe and well. It is simply amazing.

Life today presents us with so many forms of stress (hello global Pandemic, I see you!) and this can overload your mind – and body – so instead of functioning well, your health is impacted. Including your fertility.

We know that stress in your mind causes stress on your body. When your mind goes into chronic stress – by that I mean stress every day and throughout the day – it impacts your body. The truth is fear, anger, sadness and distress impact your heart and immune system, which reduces your ability to heal.

So how does this effect your fertility? Research has found stress is linked to the suppression of circulating gonadotropins and gonadal steroid hormones. The suppression of these hormones can impact your menstrual cycle and prolonged stress can impair reproductive functioning.

So as you can see stress has quite the impact on your fertility!

How can your brain and mindfulness assist your fertility?

Great question! Everyone knows how incredible our brains are. Modern brain imaging technology has allowed us to actually see how the brain functions and responds to messages from the body and vice-versa. We can see how the whole system responds.

Neuro-science is fascinating and has found that our brains can physically change! The brain we are born with can change and adapt. It’s incredible. How? Neurogenesis, neuroplasticity and mindfulness all change the brain’s structure and functioning.

Great. But how you might be asking. Let me break it down a little for you:

  • Neurogenesis is our ability to grow new neurons – which are the brain’s messaging signals – and they can be greatly impacted in response to trauma.

  • Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change the way it responds to stimuli – both internal and external. This happens through the formation of new structures, functions or connections, in the way the brain communicates with different parts of the body. Wow! This discovery has forged new treatments for patients with acquired brain injury, stroke and other forms of brain damage – it means the brain can be taught to interact with different parts of the body to recover. It’s both incredible and fascinating!

  • Mindfulness is a way to observe the neurons running inside our brain. It’s well researched and mindfulness and meditation have been shown to:

o Increase positive mood and emotions

o Increase antibodies working with influenza vaccines

o Improve mental health, physical health, pain management

o Improve sleep which has massive health benefits

o Bring a sense of inner peace and connectedness with others

So the truth is, the power of the mind-body relationship to change how your body functions means that – with training – you can impact your own natural healing ability. Wow!

This is where the MindBody Program for Fertility comes in. Research on the MindBody Program for Fertility has shown:

  • Reduction in the physical symptoms of stress

  • Increased ability to elicit the body’s relaxation response to calm the mind and heal the bod

  • Increased pregnancy rates, with a doubling of IVF success rates

  • Reduction in IVF cycles from 3 to 2

  • Improved self-care and lifestyle habits impacting infertility

  • Reduction in feelings of isolation, anxiety, guilt, anger and sadness

  • Increased coping strategies, creating more positive connections with others

  • Decreases catastrophic thinking and rumination, which negatively impacts on health, wellbeing and relationships

  • Enhances feelings of self-worth and self-esteem

Your fertility is not just physical! Your mind and your body are connected, so how you think and your emotions impact how your body responds.

The MindBody Program for Fertility supports your body to heal and accept fertility treatments. It can unlock your fertility.

What does this mean for you? If you’re on a fertility journey – at any stage of the journey – we are here to support you. Reach out for a chat.


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