The effect of mental health factors on fertility
Mental health factors, such as stress, tension, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., affect fertility. These mental health factors may cause psychological stress. Psychological stress increases cortisol production and triggers lifestyle changes. These changes may directly or indirectly affect the physiology of the ovaries, degrade the quality of the eggs, and reduce the likelihood of falling pregnant. Thus, adjusting to a healthy lifestyle, avoiding alcohol consumption, stopping smoking, and using antioxidants as a food supplement may be helpful in overcoming the ongoing deterioration of egg quality and increasing the likelihood of conception.
According to a study, the diagnosis of depression/anxiety and/or treatment with antidepressants before IVF is associated with a reduced probability of conceiving and having a live birth. In women who show signs of depression/anxiety but do not take antidepressants, there is a more marked decrease in this probability.
How can these mental health factors be treated?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Psychological treatment can help the individual to cope mentally and to lower stress and depression. According to research, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to benefit social issues, sexual issues, relationship issues, postponement of a lifestyle without children, and the desire to become a parent in the study group more than in the control group. Thus, CBT is a proven, reliable alternative to drug treatment and also effectively resolves and reduces stress related to infertility.
Another study that examined the link between CBT and fertility treatment found that 80% of women who suffered from ovulation failure and underwent treatment, started ovulating again (compared to 25% of the women in the control group).
Other ways that could help reduce stress and lower depression are practicing meditation or yoga.
Studies have shown that yoga can manage stress for patients with fertility problems, with beneficial effects on their fertility, and that yoga can help couples during the birth.
Yoga helps by improving the physiological and psychological condition of women and men. Studies have found that yoga can also reduce pain, depression, anxiety, and stress, reduce the length of an assisted vaginal delivery, and improve embryonic outcomes.
Another small study examined the effect of yoga on the emotional health of women before undergoing IVF treatment. After participating in a six-week yoga program, the participants experienced a decrease in their symptoms of anxiety and depression and an improvement in their quality of life with regards to their fertility.
Of course, in order to enjoy the relaxation and vibrations that yoga has to offer, it isn’t necessary to sign up for a yoga class that focuses specifically on fertility. Any yoga class that focuses on relaxation and is not very competitive can work.
It’s advisable to participate in gentle or restorative yoga to achieve the maximum relaxation effect.
Another option is to help yourself by using running therapy. From my experience, there hasn’t been – and probably will never be – treatment that helps me more than running. Running helps to cleanse the body and mind and this is in addition to the benefit of endometrial thickening (aerobic sports are important for endometrial thickening, as can be read in the article on the endometrium).
Hypnosis is a mind-body therapy that involves transferring to a mild sleep-like state called ‘a trance’ that is induced by a therapist or a recording of relaxation guidance. It’s about entering a state of heightened attentiveness in a particular area of the brain, during which the brain becomes more flexible and changeable. The therapist helps the patient to change negative thinking patterns by suggesting alternative ideas and changing the connections and associations in the brain.
Biofeedback is a treatment technique that uses a computerized system to monitor physiological measurements. It’s designed to allow the patient to gain better control over their body and over their physiological and emotional responses in painful, stressful, or anxious situations.
Some studies conducted on fertility and biofeedback in combination with relaxation training have found that biofeedback therapy can reduce stress and anxiety.
The idea behind biofeedback therapy is that the nervous system can be voluntarily controlled through operant conditioning (a behavioral learning process that is based on reinforcement and punishment).
Biofeedback is a relaxation training technique that effectively helps you to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
During biofeedback, the therapist monitors the heart rate, perspiration, muscle tension, brain waves, and other symptoms of physiological stress, using a computer. The therapist then takes the patient through relaxation or meditation exercises, while using computer readings to find out what best helps the patient to lower their stress level.
Mindfulness is an introspection technique that emphasizes every action we take in our daily lives right here and now. When one’s mind is attentive, by practicing the method, anyone can find calmness, serenity, freedom, and even rid themselves of thoughts and ego.
Being fully aware of the present moment without looking through the lens of judgment helps women cope with infertility and IVF treatment in new ways. It helps them to embrace self-compassion, to regulate their adaptive emotions and their fertility-related coping strategies, which, consequently, could affect their fertility-quality of life rates and their pregnancy success rates. The short, non- pharmacological nature of this intervention makes it a promising candidate for use by women during IVF treatment.
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