The exciting news that one shares with family and friends, when starting out on the journey of trying for a family, can start to become something that seems so far away, as the months go by, with yet another negative pregnancy test result. This feeling of utter disappointment can also be compounded by seeing women with their babies or perhaps seeing women who are heavily pregnant; this too can be very upsetting. Another scenario to think of is the case of a colleague sharing her news that she is three months pregnant – she is of course thrilled but the lady who has tried for so long to conceive finds the work place no longer a safe haven that it used to be; somewhere to escape to in order to avoid the harsh reality of yet another month where she hasn’t conceived.
An article written for The Telegraph by Olivia Rudgard in 2018 states that ‘the office for National Statistics said that younger women were putting off having children, with many choosing to prioritise their careers’. The statistics stated that in 2016, there were 28,744 conceptions to women in their 40’s which was a significant rise from just 12,032 in 1990.
(This is of course a positive outcome for many women. However, for those women in their 40’s who are having difficulty conceiving and who would have most likely worked hard to secure a financially rewarding career, it may well be that this is the first time that they have not been in total control of the desired outcome).
In contrast, the NHS state that there are around 1 in 7 couples who have difficulty conceiving. This is approx. 3.5 million people in the UK.
In an article published in 2016 by Health News, research carried out found that ‘one in eight women and one in ten men in the UK have experienced infertility, struggling to get pregnant for at least a year, and almost half do not seek help for the problem, according to a new study. The researchers used data on adult males and women up until the age of 74 who were participants in Britain’s third national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles between 2010-2012. The results found that around 13% of women and 10% of men said they had experienced a period of infertility at some point. This was reported more often by those who were married or cohabiting at the time of study, likely because they were trying for a baby and discovered a fertility issue. The research also found that ‘those who had children after age 35 were more likely to report a period of infertility than those who had children before the age of 25.’
Gurevich (2019) has written an article explaining about the eight possible reasons you can’t conceive. The list includes medical issues such as endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), tokophobia, (fear of getting pregnant or primary tokophobia which is a fear of giving birth) underlying medical problems such as lupus or undiagnosed celiac disease. The article also mentions unexplained infertility and age-related infertility which could be the reason for not conceiving. We will look at the former a little closer.
Domar (2002) gave the ‘official definition’ of infertility; which is failing to produce a pregnancy that results in a live birth after one year of unprotected regular intercourse if you’re aged thirty-five, and after six months if you’re over thirty five. Domar (2002) goes on to say that infertility affects 6.1 million women (in the USA) or about 10% of the reproductive – age population, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The information below gives the background into Domar’s research.
Domar (2002) ran a series of studies with her colleagues in the mid to late 1980’s headed by Herbert Benson, Cardiologist who was Domar’s mentor as well as the Founder of the Harvard Mind/Body Medical institute. The study looked at the relationship between the relaxation response of the hypothalamus (as this regulates all aspects of reproduction) and infertility. When the series of tests were carried out, 100 women with unexplained fertility were picked. They were then split into two groups; one group were trained in eliciting the relaxation response whilst the other group would be controls where they would not be taught any relaxation techniques. The research was carried out for a period of six months and as you can imagine caused quite a lot of upset for the women who were the controls. They had put their names forward for the study because they thought that they would stand a good chance of getting pregnant.
It was after a series of research that Domar (2002) approached Benson and suggested that they scrap the study (because it had seemed unethical and very upsetting to put people through such angst) but asked him to consider concentrating on a clinical mind/body programme specifically for infertility. Domar’s point of view was strengthened in particular because of a study that had come out of Bogota, Columbia in 1985, regarding a small group of women who had unexplained infertility. Of the women who were receiving mind/body therapy, four out of the seven became pregnant whilst none of the controls group did.
Domar (2002) gives other strong examples of other ways the clinical/mind body programme had improved lives and talked about how this particular programme had helped those with medical issues.
Benson agreed to scrap the initial study and the Clinical Mind/Body programme was born. Needless to say, there have been a lot of studies since that all point to the connection of ‘depression being lifted, anxiety being lifted and their anger being lifted.’
So, thanks to various studies that have been carried out, we now know that stress and depression have a huge impact on unexplained infertility. We also know that unless ‘treated’ it will become a vicious circle when trying to conceive over the coming months which will in turn cause stress and pressure (especially if there are people around you who are conceiving – which is an added pressure) possibly from your family and friends who keep asking when the impending pregnancy is going to happen. This could in turn lead to depression and according to Domar (2002) there have been recent studies to consider that depression has a major impact on infertility.
Domar (2002) came up with some really good points from various studies to consider and by looking at them below illustrates to me how hypnotherapy can really assist as it can help to destress and relax which of course is imperative when trying to conceive. It is really important that as a hypnotherapist I don’t make promises that hypnotherapy will result in a pregnancy as that would be totally unethical. However, what I do say is that it gives the couple a good chance that they will conceive and to clarify to the couple that I am merely the facilitator; hypnosis being the tool:-
With the three points below, it tells a story of how difficult it can be to get out of the cycle especially if you consider point number 3. So, given all the information that has been researched over the years, it is really important that the couple (I use male and female as an example but of course this could apply to same sex couples as well who are going through medical procedures such as ART (Assisted Reproductive Techniques i.e. IVF/ICSI) or perhaps Surrogacy are treated sympathetically and with empathy. It can be a very upsetting experience when not conceiving, not to mention if you are in a pressured environment; for instance having sex at certain times of the day; monitoring the woman’s temperature – this in itself can build pressure but add in the scenario that the couple have had an argument (which can certainly happen in these stressful situations), the man will find it difficult to perform under this pressure, which will be another added stress to the woman who will find that her small window of opportunity has now gone.
- Infertile women are more depressed than fertile women are.
- Infertile women’s depression levels peak two to three years after they start trying to conceive.
- Infertility has as great a psychological impact as does a potentially terminal illness.
What happens when we meet for a hypnotherapy session
Below is just a brief synopsis of what happens during a hypnotherapy session. Each programme I write for and with client(s) will be on a case by case basis.
- Ascertain over the telephone or Skype/Zoom etc. what it is the client wishes to achieve. To have this conversation serves two purposes; myself as the therapist gaining a better understanding of the situation and the client will be able to put a focus on the outcome they wish to achieve.
- Ascertain the goal state of the client(s); it is probable that there will be more than one goal in mind. We will then use a life coaching tool to work toward their plan.
- The most important part of the process is for the client(s) to work on their emotions. When trying for a baby, the emotions they may be feeling after months or even years of conceiving are listed below: this is not an exhaustive list:
- Isolating themselves from friends/family
- Feeling angry and bitter
- Becoming hostile towards people
- I will revisit how the client(s) are feeling at the beginning of each session.
- It is important to gain an understanding if there are any unresolved issues which may be preventing the couple conceiving. As I have mentioned before this could be issues such as tokophobia or perhaps subconsciously the responsibility of becoming a parent can be a frightening concept. Whatever the reason it is of the utmost importance that the client(s) can acknowledge the factors at work that may be halting the progress.
- Depending on where the client(s) is emotionally, the type of hypnotherapy to embark on would depend on the circumstances. To follow the mind-body approach, it is essential that the client(s) is relaxed and therefore I would carry out a hypnotherapy session purely for relaxation. It is important to add that I wouldn’t carry out any hypnotherapy until I was satisfied that the client(s) has been able to process and own their emotions. In essence, the first session I have with a client would be to establish exactly what it is that the client wants from our sessions and to gain an understanding of how they are feeling with the current situation. The second session (and others attended by the client(s) would always ask scaling questions around their goal that they have set and a discussion around this. After this hypnotherapy would begin.
It is important to note, when a couple work through their emotions, should their dreams of becoming parents start to diminish they may decide that enough is enough and that they no longer wish to put themselves through such angst and perhaps instead decide to opt for adoption. Whatever their journey it is important that they are accepting of this decision and I will support them throughout.
DOMAR, A (2002) Conquering Infertility. New York: Penguin Group
GUREVICH, R (2019) Why am I not getting pregnant: very well family. (online) Available from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-cant-I-get-pregnant-if-im-healthy-1959936 (accessed 06/05/19)
Health News (2016) One in eight women experience infertility. (online) Available from: https//uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-infertility-rates/one-in-eight-women-experience-infertility-idUKKCN0Z0295/ (accessed 06/05/19)
HUGO, S (2009) The Fertility Body Method: A Practitioners Manual. Camarthen. Crown House Publishing Ltd
NHS (2017). Infertility. (online) Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/ (accessed 06/05/19)
RUDGARD, O (2018) Older mothers on the rise as over 40’s become the only group with a rising conception rate. Telegraph, 27 March (online) (accessed 30/05/19)