There are no two ways about it, fertility treatment is stressful. Three out of ten IVF patients experience anxiety and depression. And research shows that being told you have infertility isn’t for the faint of heart – it causes the same levels of stress as being told you have HIV or cancer. On top of that, research has also shown that stress can negatively affect whether you achieve two little pink lines after an IVF cycle.
It’s hard to manage that kind of stress, and for many, stopping treatment before achieving success can be all too common.
We want you to achieve parenthood as much as you do. And we know that in order for that goal to happen, we aren’t just prescribing treatment – we are treating you as a whole person, both mind and body included. But as doctors we are also driven by science, so we decided to merge the practice of yoga with medical research.
For the study, we partnered with Pulling Down the Moon to study the role yoga and supportive group discussion has in reducing stress. Our study subjects were all female infertility patients.
Study: The Impact of Yoga on Anxiety in Fertility Patients
In one of the largest controlled yoga studies to date, we found that a six-week Yoga for Fertility™ program lowered anxiety in fertility patients by 20%. The control group that did not complete the program only saw a 2% reduction in stress.
A follow up study compared groups who completed the six-week Yoga for Fertility program in person or at home through an online program, and found they had similar results. Anxiety was reduced by 26% for those in the online program and 23% for the in-person program.
The numbers say it all – yoga is an effective way to calm anxiety and lessen stress. Those who participated in the study – fertility patients in treatment – typically see stress levels rise as treatment continues. Taking that into consideration, we would have considered the program a success if we had been able to keep stress levels from rising. Not only was once weekly group yoga and discussion effective at lowering stress, it quickly made a significant and positive change.
When we presented our study to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the medical community agreed. And the media took notice to help us spread the word to others who might need help – we were included in 19 articles and shared our research with Darlene Hill on FOX Chicago.
Yoga for Fertility Program
The Yoga for Fertility program, created and led by Pulling Down the Moon, involves 45 minutes of vinyasa-style yoga and 30 minutes of group discussion with other infertility patients once a week over a period of six weeks.
Each yoga posture practice includes a gentle series of flowing yoga poses. Group discussion centers on how to apply different yoga techniques (breathing, meditation, working with negative thoughts) to the individual fertility journey.
How It Works: The Science Behind the Practice of Yoga
We believe there are three main reasons why yoga can reduce stress:
- Relaxation is activated through yoga.
Through stretching and bending the spine and limbs and emphasizing deep diaphragmatic breathing, relaxation is triggered during yoga. Experts have hypothesized that yoga poses and breathing exercises stimulate the vagus nerve, a large nerve running the length of the spine that is a key regulator of our body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which aids in flipping the switch to our relaxation response.
- Breathing and meditation are proven anxiety suppressors.
The relaxation practices of breathing and meditation have been shown to decrease anxiety and alleviate depression in many different conditions.
- You are part of a community and feel less alone.
If you are struggling with something in life, it makes you feel less isolated to know that you are not alone. To talk with others who can relate to exactly what you are experiencing is a very powerful support network. Group discussions focused on the most stressful areas surrounding fertility treatment – feeling like you have no control, navigating unexpected medical challenges, feeling separated from your peers, and feelings of guilt and self-blame.
Feeling stressed? Only one hour a week can make a huge difference!
Give yoga a try with the Practice the Moon Salute Sequence led by Beth Heller of Pulling Down the Moon.