Photography by: Pornchai Mittongtare
“People going through infertility have similar stress levels to cancer, AIDS and heart disease patients,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF and author of Conquering Infertility (Penguin). The link between stress and infertility is hotly debated—a recent study in the British Medical Journal, for example, found no link between emotional distress and IVF failure. But many experts believe chronic stress has hijacked our primitive fight-or-flight response, causing the pituitary gland to unnecessarily release endorphins that suppress reproductive hormones.
A landmark 2000 Harvard Medical School study found that women who participated in a 10-week mind-body program, including relaxation and yoga, were nearly three times more likely to conceive than women who didn’t. And a 2009 Domar-led study found that women who took part in a mind-body stress management program before or during their second IVF cycle had a 160 percent higher pregnancy rate compared with those who did not.
STRIKE A POSE
“Yoga reduces the stress hormone cortisol and induces the relaxation response,” explains Tami Quinn, a registered yoga teacher and co-founder of the Chicago-based holistic fertility center Pulling Down the Moon. Specific poses, such as Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), can also increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, potentially thickening the uterine lining; this can help with embryo implantation. Stick with gentle hatha or restorative yoga—this is not the time for Bikram (“hot”) yoga. Try: Pulling Down the Moon’s Yoga Practices for Fertility DVD ($25; pullingdownthemoon.com)