By Anna Gannon
I never thought I would have trouble getting pregnant.
I remember the first time I took a pregnancy test, it was right after one month of trying. I can still feel the disappointment I had the moment I saw the negative result and still hear my hopeful thoughts saying, “It takes time, Anna. I’m sure next month will be positive.” But, next month wasn’t positive and neither were many, many months to come.
I don’t know how many pregnancy tests I took, but I do know that with each glance at a negative one, something in me started to break. Each month I watched as the conversation in my head turned from hopeful and enthusiastic to fearful and heartbroken.
Looking back now, I can see how different I was during that time. I became anxious, stressed and obsessed about getting pregnant.
One morning, when I was getting ready to head out to see my family who lives a few states away, my husband placed his hand on my shoulder and said he needed to tell me something before we left. It turns out my brother had told him that my sister-in-law was pregnant and knowing how emotional I was about not being pregnant, he thought it was best to tell me now before they announced it that day in front of everyone.
His words hit me like a ton of bricks. I broke into hysterical tears, threw my head into his chest and broke down. At the core of it, I was jealous. Jealous that she was pregnant and not me, and on top of that jealousy was the horrible feeling that I couldn’t just be happy for my brother and his wife.
There was something in that jealousy that woke me up that day. I realized how stressed I actually was and how having a baby had become a destructive addiction that was emotionally tearing me apart. A few days later, I decided to stop “trying” to conceive. I threw away the ovulation sticks. I stopped buying pregnancy tests, stopped tracking my cycle, and stopped treating myself like I was broken. Instead, I focused on taking long walks where I paid attention to my breath and being present. It was as if I started a meditation practice, without even noticing it.
Two months later, I was pregnant.
Over the course of my life, I’ve observed that every time I step back, see how my thoughts are affecting my body, and make a conscious effort to practice letting go through meditation, I open up a space within me for whatever it is that I want.
In speaking with women who are on their fertility journey, I’ve noticed this in themselves as well. Whenever they begin a meditation practice, they slowly stop blaming themselves, their stress decreases and their self-compassion increases. In other words, they get better at focusing on the positive instead of the negative so they can create a healthy space for a baby to grow.
Although there are numerous tools, strategies, and treatments out there to support a woman’s body during this time, like hormone balancing, fertility diets, ovulation tracking, acupuncture, IVF, etc, there isn’t much talk about how women can support their minds. We all know that our mind and body are connected so we can’t ignore one and expect the other to work efficiently.
Realizing the important role our emotional health plays in the fertility process, I decided to look into the research behind how meditation can help women conceive. What I found opened my eyes even further to why meditation is the tool we are missing in fertility care.
Here's some of the research on the benefits of meditation for fertility:
For the longest time, I thought menstrual symptoms were normal, but it turns out they are indicators of a bigger issue: Hormone imbalance. Hormonal imbalance can affect important chemical signaling in the body and cause problems with ovulation.(1) Luckily, meditation influences hormone centers that can promote hormone balance, which may help conception. (2) Starting a regular meditation practice can help recalibrate your hormones, allowing them to function properly so you can create a healthy environment for a baby to grow.
When I was trying to conceive, I tracked my ovulation and menstrual cycle obsessively. This became a vicious cycle as every month I would get hit with a negative pregnancy test that would leave me stressed, anxious and upset until it was time to try again. Studies have shown that stress is linked to reduced fertility in both males and females. (3, 5) In one study of 291 women undergoing IVF treatment, it was found that anxiety and depression negatively affected fertility. (4) Looking back, I can see how much my stress affected me getting pregnant, and I didn’t conceive until I started managing it.
When my husband and I started trying, we joked about how “fun” it was attempting to make a baby. Unfortunately, that initial excitement was quickly replaced with worry and concern about whether or not we were able to have children. These feelings of inadequacy made us feel disconnected from ourselves and each other at a time when we needed support more than ever. Research shows that mindfulness practices can enhance compassion and kindness (6) and might have saved my husband and I from a lot of arguments and misunderstandings.
I was really hard on myself during my fertility journey. I blamed my body for not working properly and I blamed my mind for not being smart enough to figure out the solutions to my infertility. When I started practicing meditation, I noticed that I was more gentle with myself and therefore others. Studies back this up with data that shows that meditation is associated with self-compassion and stress management. (7) Knowing how much meditation has allowed me to have a more positive and compassionate inner dialogue, I can’t help but wonder how much that would have helped during the inevitable ups and downs of trying to conceive.
After diving into all this research, and seeing how mindfulness has helped so many women through their preparing to conceive process, I have come to the realization that we are ignoring one key tool when it comes to getting pregnant: meditation for fertility.
It’s my hope that within the next few years that when women walk into their doctor’s office looking for the tools that can support them with fertility, that meditation be right in line with ovulation tracking, nutrition, and exercise.
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Originally published at expectful.com