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Feeling Stressed from IVF? Protect Yourself.


a blog by Beth and Tami of Pulling Down the Moon, Feb. 9, 2010

Detox . . . . Cleanse . . . . Purify . . . .

These are holistic buzz words, sure, but the process of trying to conceive can leave physical, emotional and even spiritual debris. Is there truly a way to get "rid" of this negative stuff? Or protect ourselves from collecting more?

From a holistic perspective, there are strategies for detoxifying the physical body through good nutrition, yoga and sleep. The mind and spirit are also able to release negativity, but we must give them permission. But what about this second question, is there truly a way of protecting ourselves from negative baggage? Can we somehow create a shield around ourselves that keeps the disappointment from "sticking" and ruining our positive outlook?

Interestingly, Dr. Roger Pitman, a researcher and physician at Harvard University, has shown that the stress hormone adrenaline, the same adrenaline that stimulates our "fight or flight" response, actually serves to cement memories of trauma. Adrenaline, says Pitman, acts directly on the amygdala region of our brain, the area concerned with fear and memory. In this theory, the stronger the adrenaline reaction to an event, the stronger and more lasting the resulting fear and aversion – and the memory of the event.

While Dr. Pitman's research was conducted on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder patients, there may be something of use here for fertility challenges. Studies have shown that women undergoing IVF have stress and anxiety levels equal to women with cancer. Failed cycles, money matters, miscarriages, late-term losses, high-stakes disappointments and devastating diagnoses - these experiences are accompanied by huge levels of stress hormones. It's inescapable!

Or is it? According to the Harvard research, it’s our response to stress rather than the actual stress event that causes residual problems. Certainly the disappointments and traumas of infertility are painful in and of themselves, but what if we learned to modulate our response?

One of the fundamental teachings of yoga is learning how to calm and relax the body and mind. Stretching releases the physical patterns of dis-ease created by past physical and emotional trauma. Deep, calming breath helps lower levels of stress hormones circulating in the body, making us less "reactive" to stressful circumstances. The yoga practice of learning to observe our thoughts helps us identify and control patterns of negativity that allow routine events to spiral wildly into "worst-case" scenarios in our heads. In our opinion, the simple, inexpensive techniques of yoga - stretching, breathing and meditation – really do create a defense against the onslaught of the stress response, and potentially, associated traumatic stress.

Speaking from personal experience, yoga breathing in moments of trauma is of enormous benefit. The mindfulness we practice “on the mat” jumps into action when trauma arises, reminding us that no matter what is happening externally, we have an inner peace that is unshakable.

I can remember specific moments in my journey – during and after my stillbirth, through my other miscarriages, during the few weeks that both my boys spent in the Neonate Intensive Care Unit – when I was able to remind myself that the world was bigger than the immediate trauma I was experiencing.

So, as we enter 2010, a year that promises its share of ups and downs on all fronts, perhaps it's time for you to put on the "protective armour" of the yogi. A relaxed body, a calm mind and a peaceful spirit are within reach in a local yoga or meditation class.

Be Present, Be Positive, Be Non-Stick!

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Comments (1)

Great article! I really like how you pointed out that the real problem is our reaction to stress, not stress itself. I also concur with the fact that deep breathing can be a huge help, when it comes to dealing with anxiousness. You just forgot to mention that often people really don’t notice how severely stressed they are. I’ve been telling my friends to try this simple anxiety quiz, and the results were alarming… many of us scored really badly. Interestingly though, the people who had the worse scores were the kind of people who usually refuse to admit they have any problem whatsoever dealing with stress.

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