Fertility treatment is stressful. Three in ten IVF patients suffer from anxiety and depression, and the impact of an infertility diagnosis causes the same levels of stress as an HIV or cancer diagnosis.
How does this hurt fertility patients the most? For many, this means dropping out of treatment before achieving success. Further adding to the problem, stress has been found to negatively affect IVF outcomes.
We want you to achieve parenthood as much as you do. We think it’s important to help in all areas of patient care, and to treat more than just an infertility diagnosis. As practitioners of medicine we are also investigators of treatment technologies, and feel a recommendation is best made when backed up by proven science.
In a mission to provide effective treatment solutions for patients, we partnered with Pulling Down the Moon to study the potential role yoga and group discussion has in stress reduction for infertility patients. The results we uncovered surprised even us.
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 rates in fertility patients by 20%. The control group that did not complete the program saw a 2% reduction in stress.
We see these numbers as nothing short of astounding. Typically during fertility treatment, stress levels continue to rise as treatment continues. Keeping stress levels from rising would have deemed the program a success. Not only was the program effective at lowering stress, it produced drastic results in a short period of time. Such a significant reduction is demonstrative of how helpful this program can be for patients.
When we presented our study to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine this past fall, the medical community also 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.
While the Yoga for Fertility Program has been helping fertility patients for 14 years, this was the first time it was studied scientifically.
How It Works: The Science Behind the Practice of Yoga
We believe there are three main reasons why yoga can reduce stress:
- Community Support Diminishes Isolation:
Group discussion centered on the most stressful areas surrounding fertility treatment – feeling a lack of control, various medical aspects, separation from your normal peer group, and feelings of guilt and self-blame. Being with others experiencing similar challenges immediately provides a support network and reduces isolation.
- Relaxation is Activated Through Vagus Nerve Stimulation:
Yoga, a low-intensity form of exercise, works on the physical body. Through stretching and bending the spine and limbs and emphasizing deep diaphragmatic breathing, it is believed that the body’s relaxation response is mechanically stimulated. It has been 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 (PNS). The PNS in turn stimulates the relaxation response.
- Breathing and Meditation are Key Relaxation Strategies:
The relaxation practices of breathing and meditation have been shown to decrease anxiety and alleviate depression in many different conditions.
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.