Fertility: a word that has the potential to ignite a wide range of emotions for so many, especially for those struggling to conceive. Whilst society empathises with women on this matter men still tend to be sidelined. Many are uncomfortable expressing their sadness, pain or frustration and therefore don’t tend to seek help, they often feel obliged to stay strong to support their partner and are rarely asked how they feel about this unknown, strange, previously uncharted and often baffling world of needing help to make a baby.
In today’s world we invariably expect to be able to be in control of our lives, our plans and our timelines. The latest technology is on hand to help navigate daily demands and we’re continually told that we can do anything and achieve everything that we put our mind to. It’s hard to accept when something is out of our control and all too easy to feel a failure and drift into ‘compare and despair’ when others appear to get pregnant without even trying.
When anxiety, stress, fear and sadness are repressed rather than expressed they get stored in the body and we become ‘full’. When our mind perceives possible danger or stress it fires off messages to the body to keep us safe. In the case of fertility this will result in the body shutting down reproduction as resources are needed to support the adult during a perceived crisis – every stressful situation can be perceived as a potential crisis when it’s not the right time to bring a baby into the world. Our body needs to focus on keeping us safe, first and foremost, without having to divert energy into nurturing a baby.
Until fairly recently women’s reproductive health was prioritised however it is now, at last, recognised by the medical world that men’s reproductive health is equally as important, also requiring investigation and possible treatment. Sadly this is not always the case away from the fertility clinics as society still views infertility as a woman’s problem. This can result in longer or failed treatments when a man doesn’t feel it’s necessary for him to participate in appointments and treatments to achieve successful conception. It can isolate the woman who may experience guilt, pressure, responsibility and anger that her partner may not understand.
Men who are stressed are more likely to have a lower level of testosterone, decreased sperm count and motility (the sperm’s ability to move) as well as abnormal sperm production.
The problem is exacerbated with poor sleep patterns and sleep deprivation which leads to less tolerance and higher stress levels due to exhaustion. When each new month brings another period or negative pregnancy test result, stress can escalate – the opposite of what is needed for successful conception. Daytime activities and commitments suffer, confidence takes a dive and a lower libido, strained relationships and less energy in the bedroom are a very common consequence. It becomes a vicious cycle.
So what can be done?
There is plenty of information available about how lifestyle changes, better nutrition and physical therapies such as acupuncture can improve sperm quality and motility. The connection between the mind and body is now also widely recognised and this is where just a few sessions of hypnotherapy can, to some people’s surprise, create an entirely different outcome.
It is well recognised now that a relaxed mind and body are highly beneficial for conception. Using proven techniques to reframe and retrain the mind can have a profoundly positive impact on the body and sperm production. Creating a relaxed mindset allows the body to function fully without blocking reproduction. When the environment is perceived as dangerous (whether or not that’s really the case) it makes sense that reproduction is not a priority. When we feel ‘safe’ we can relax and reproduce, just as nature intended.
Powerful changes, both physical and mental, can occur after only a few sessions of hypnotherapy as you reduce stress levels, take control of your life and learn to focus on what is positive. It is particularly beneficial for unexplained infertility and also increases the chances of successful IVF, or IUI treatment. Learning self hypnosis and other self help techniques, improving breathing and sleep patterns, eliminating cravings or bad habits will not only be beneficial for those wanting to conceive but are also highly effective when applied in other areas of life.
Once the mind discovers a state of improved relaxation, no longer needing to be on continual high alert / hyperarousal then the body can respond positively, creating the best environment for reproduction, for both male and female.
Stress may not be the only factor causing infertility but research into anxiety and depression showed that successful conception can take much longer for women suffering from either condition. Research is less extensive into male fertility however if stress affects women then there is every reason to believe men will be similarly affected.
There is a historical stigma around men’s health, with unhelpful outdated societal programmes that men must always be strong, men’s reproductive health is less important and that health issues for men are not to be discussed. Men are not as comfortable as women talking about health, especially when reproduction is the topic. Thankfully this is changing, albeit very slowly, however more conversations need to be opened up, information must be shared and men need to be supported in a way that encourages them to open up about their struggles.
Men require a different approach to women and should no longer be regarded as the lesser part of the fertility journey. It’s vital that the male perspective is understood for treatments and therapies to be successful.