As any woman who has struggled to conceive knows, emotions are a key part of the pregnancy puzzle. Fertility problems are stressful, and often cause a woman to feel anxious, depressed, or inadequate. Depression and emotional turmoil can delay or even prevent conception all together. Addressing the emotional side of fertility can lessen the emotional pain and increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
Many women feel a great pressure to become pregnant quickly, after waiting to establish a career or finding a partner later in life. There is often an expectation that pregnancy should occur within 1 to 2 cycles, and then a woman begins to worry that she is infertile, or that she has waited too long. I meet many women who are concerned that they will not conceive, not for any reason except that it has become so common. Although 10-15% of couples in the United States will experience infertility, there is no cause for concern unless pregnancy has not occurred after 12 months of unprotected sex (or 6 months if the woman is over 35). Once the cycle of stress and anxiety begins, it can become very difficult to overcome.
Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between depression and infertility. A study from Brown University showed that women with a history of depressive symptoms were twice as likely to report infertility than women without a history of such symptoms. Another study from the University of California demonstrated that depression can interfere with fertility treatments as well. Women in this study who were the most depressed were the least likely to conceive through IVF. (Read more about these studies here.)
This article from Acupuncture Today addresses some of the emotions women commonly experience, and their relationship to fertility. There are exasperation, desperation, worry, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy. In East Asian medicine, the spirit, called Shen, is said to come from the Heart and to be directly connected to the uterus through the acupuncture meridians. This connection explains the impact that emotions can have on fertility and the importance of addressing stress and emotional disruption when a woman is wanting to conceive.
Acupuncture can play an essential role in balancing emotions that might be preventing pregnancy. It relieves stress and depression, and lessens anxiety and worry. Through addressing the emotions, acupuncture can make the journey to conception smoother and easier.