Coping with Infertility Stress Through Hypnotherapy

One needs to “understand the importance of simmering down the emotionality of infertility and recognize that the emotional distress cannot help but land in the body” (On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility by Helene Adrienne).

Many men and women struggle to conceive, while single or in relationships. This struggle, commonly referred to as infertility, is similar to chronic illness as it requires adaptation over time and does not have immediate resolution. It is important to see and understand the affects of the symptoms and diagnosis in each circumstance holistically as experiences and perceptions vary from man to woman, couple and individual. Individuals dealing with infertility may experience existential, social, physical, emotional and relationship stressors that can impact their ability to cope with their diagnosis. Disclosure of infertility can cause a series of physical, emotional and social stressors that can create more tension within the individual. In addition, feelings of isolation may be due to the perceived stigmatizing nature of infertility.

Research indicates that hypnosis is not just a technique that aids in the reduction of stress to the nervous system but also a tool that can encourage communication between the mind and body. This can be achieved by sending messages to the hormonal system, which is directly connected to the reproductive system.  For example, hypnosis has been found to promote physical relaxation and stress management. These components can enhance feelings of control in the individual, empowering them to find new ways to cope with stressors caused by infertility. Hypnosis is a “letting-go” technique that provides a link between the mind and body. In addition, hypnosis offers various techniques that can be used to enhance the experience. These techniques include deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Stressors often experienced are:

Existential Stress

  • Alters a woman’s idea of her future.
  • Infertility creates an intergenerational effect on parents and siblings
  • Procreation is tied to cultural and social beliefs about sexual identity.
  • The inability to have children can cause an individuals self-perception of femininity or masculinity and a feeling of failure, feelings of being defective, and unattractive.
  • Infertility can cause the individual to lose self-confidence, optimism for the future, and raise doubts about the individuals competencies in other roles, such as parenting and marital relationships

Social Stress

  • As peers become pregnant and close friends and relatives begin to ask about children, the individual may become increasingly aware and self-conscious about their inability to have children.
  • Disclosing this information may cause individuals to receive unhelpful and insensitive advice from their social support

Physical Stress

  • It is estimated that 31% of couples seek medical treatment for infertility. Upon start of treatment the individual may have to undergo several tests, monitor their hormones on a regular basis, undergo biopsies, etc. Waiting for test results may cause additional stress and anxiety. If tests are inconclusive, they often lead to additional testing and medical interventions.

Emotional Stress

  • Stemming form the inability to predict the future, infertile women are more aware of their reproductive functions and timing of sexual activity
  • Emotional reaction to infertility may be anger, depression and guilt. Feelings of being inferior and guilt for not getting pregnant can lead to depression

Relationship Stress

  • Infertility may cause couples to re-evaluate their union. The individual with the reproductive problem may feel guilty for not fulfilling their partners desire for children, feel unworthy and like they are holding their partner back from having a family of their own.
  • Financial strain because of medical treatments, sexual dysfunction, communication problems or not telling their partner about their infertility for fear of losing their partner.
  • Sexual relations may become a chore because it is no longer spontaneous.
  • Each month the anticipation of getting pregnant and having the onset of menses or when the pregnancy test comes back negative.

How Hypnotherapy can help:

Relaxation reduces stress, anxiety, fear of change, and defensiveness and provides a sense of empowerment. Things become more manageable and less overwhelming when you are relaxed. In addition to relaxation, hypnosis guides the individual and empowers them to find the solution by focusing internally.

The use of hypnosis purely for its relaxation component will reduce stress and enhance feelings of control, which may be a valid reason for using it even if not used to induce a specific outcome. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation during hypnosis offers a way to return the body to neutrality and receptivity from a state of frenzy that the infertility experience has most likely been provoking.

Considering hypnotherapy for infertility may benefit individuals seeking a mind-body approach.

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