At some point on your fertility journey, you’ve probably found yourself overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious about when you’ll finally become pregnant. These are normal emotions and many women (and men) who deal with infertility experience them. But when another month goes by without a positive sign on the pregnancy test, you may begin to experience these emotions more intensely. They may even translate into a loss of self-compassion or feeling like you’re “broken.” While common, this level of anxiety and stress is not healthy — for your mind, your body, or your future pregnancy. While we all know that meditation is something that’s good for us, trying to conceive or not, most of us don’t make time in our day to clear our minds and focus inward. Let’s take a look at how meditation can impact fertility and some easy ways for you to incorporate meditation into your day.
What is meditation?
An article on Psychology Today says, “meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.” Sounds easy. But if it were that simple, why do so many people shy away from the practice? Probably because meditation has so often been presented as sitting on a cushion in complete silence, while you transcend earthly worries.
That form of meditation can feel pretty out of reach. When you have worries about the cost of fertility treatments or how you’ll deal with the emotional stress of trying to conceive during the holidays, clearing your head sounds nice but isn’t as easy as you’d like it to be.
That’s where finding your own method of meditation comes in. Maybe you don’t sit quietly on the floor but, instead, take a walk through your neighborhood and notice all of the sounds and smells. Maybe gardening is your meditation. Or painting. Or journaling. Meditation can be anything that brings your mind into the present moment. That is the purpose of meditation, not trying to emulate some idealistic movie version.
Why should you meditate when you’re trying to get pregnant?
So you know that meditation comes with many benefits. Some of these benefits (that are backed by scientific research) include:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
- Improves focus
- Improves sleep
- Can help fight addiction
- Increases compassion for yourself and others
- Lowers blood pressure
- Can decrease pain
It’s obvious that meditation is good for you. But you’re probably wondering how these benefits actually help improve fertility, right? Here’s an overview of some of the major ways a mindful meditation practice can help you when you’re trying to conceive.
High stress levels are linked to poor fertility
Trying to conceive can be incredibly stressful which, in turn, can make it even harder to conceive. Studies have found that “chronic stress can affect ovulation by altering signals to the hypothalamus, the center of the brain that regulates some of the hormones that trigger the ovaries to release eggs each month.”
The good news: meditation can evoke the opposite of the “fight or flight” stress response. It decreases your heart rate, slows your breathing, and allows your body to enter a state of relaxation.
Imbalanced hormones can even out with meditation
When you’re stressed or anxious, your body releases more cortisol than normal. While cortisol is necessary, too much can cause your body to shut down other hormones — particularly estrogen and testosterone. This is a protective biological response; if you’re in a state of high stress, your brain wants to conserve all your resources to protect you from whatever perceived threat is causing high levels of cortisol. Meditation can help lower levels of cortisol and restore balance to estrogen and testosterone.
Sleep impacts fertility (and meditation can help)
Sleep is critical for everyone, and it affects practically every other area of our lives. Women who are trying to conceive are especially affected. Long-term lack of sleep can impact the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation. This can cause an irregular menstrual cycle, making it harder for you to get pregnant.
Since meditation promotes relaxation and lowered stress levels, a regular practice could help you sleep more soundly.
Increased compassion can change your inner dialogue
Many women who struggle with infertility have lowered levels of self-compassion. They may blame themselves for their inability to conceive, which can lead to negative self-talk and self-esteem. Mindful meditation activates the part of your brain responsible for empathy, naturally leading to a more positive inner dialogue. This can also help strengthen your relationship with your partner. Trying to conceive may be fun at first but if you go through months without success, it can take a toll on your relationship. Meditation can help you have more empathy for each other, strengthening your bond and helping you focus on the love you have for one another.
Meditations to Try While You’re TTC
Ready to give meditation a try? Here are a few of our favorite options.
Headspace — An app that you can take with you, headspace offers simple, daily meditations
Metta (or “loving-kindness”) guided meditation — This 13-minute video will guide you through a meditation designed to help increase compassion and relaxation
Circle + Bloom — a meditation created specifically for women who are trying to conceive
Remember, you get to decide which type of meditation works for you. Forcing yourself to sit through a guided meditation class that you don’t enjoy may just cause you more stress. You can try out our recommendations, look online for more, or do something that doesn’t seem like “traditional” meditation but may help you clear your mind. Keep trying different things until you find one that works well for you — it’s worth the effort!