Let’s face it, fertility struggles are not relaxing. They are the polar opposite- anxiety ridden, tail spinning, life altering. And it is compounded by knowing that you should relax but not being able to and then feeling anxious about that. To be perfectly honest, the easiest thing to treat with acupuncture is anxiety. No matter what we are treating you specifically for be it luteal phase defect or anovulation or period pain, a side effect of all acupuncture is relaxation. We still don’t know the exact mechanism(s) for acupuncture but we do know that it raises endorphin levels and lowers stress hormones. This kind of relaxation is physical and let’s your body reset its stress response so that you don’t feel pushed over the edge all the time. The stress of infertility will still be there because issues don’t go away, but acupuncture patients manage the stress much better and have far less anxiety. Is this why acupuncture patients have higher pregnancy rates? Maybe it’s part of it. But treating the emotional side of infertility treatment seems to have important physical consequences. Current acupuncture/fertility research is targeting exactly these questions about stress and conception.
There are lots of things you can do to promote relaxation in your daily life such as exercise, qi gong, yoga, breathing exercises, taking a warm bath, cooking a healthy but delicious meal, get a massage, etc. Sometimes it is important to just distract yourself from fertility thoughts for a while and go see a movie or take a new art class. Therapy can be extremely helpful and we have several great therapists in the area specializing in fertility, see our resources and links page. No matter what you do, the important thing is that you take action against the stress and anxiety that comes with infertility.
Practice Breathing Controlling your breath is vitally important for relaxation. Short, shallow breathing with your upper chest actually promotes a physiological stress response in our body and leads to chronically tense neck and shoulder muscles. Most of us need to relearn how to breathe with our diaphragm in order to reduce anxiety and restore a sense of calm. The diaphragm is a muscle that when it is underused becomes weak and so this exercise might feel awkward at first. You will get the hang of it quickly and once your breathing pattern is restored, you will be in control of your reaction to stress. Breathing from your diaphragm will allow your body to feel in control and minimize the sensations of panic that stress can cause. This is Basic Breathing 101, practice it intentionally several times throughout your day for at least one week .
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
Place one hand on your belly button and the other on your upper chest.
Take a long, slow deep breath and notice which hand is moving up/out as you inhale. If it is your upper hand on your chest, you are in fight-or-flight mode which is our bodyís stress response. We want the hand on your belly button (which is right over your diaphragm) to be doing all the work. You should breathe in and inflate your belly like a balloon, leaving your upper hand still. Your shoulders should have no role in breathing.
This will seem awkward at first. Just concentrate on pulling the air in through your nose down all the way into your belly to fill your body up - from the bottom up.
Your belly will push out with the inhale and this may seem exaggerated -we are not used to sticking our bellies out. In the beginning it takes more force to get the diaphragm to do it’s job. Eventually you will be able to keep the hand on your upper chest still during the inhale and let your neck grow long as your shoulders relax.
Exhale completely counting to four in your head.