We asked Brenda Strong, fertility expert and board member of the American Fertility Association (oh, and she plays Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives too!), to take us through some of the most popular alternative therapies out there — and tell us what they’re really all about.
Hey, it’s not all just about finding your chi and learning how to bend like a pretzel. Yoga increases blood flow to your reproductive organs (i.e. your ovaries and other fun stuff around your abdominal area), which in turn oxygenates the cells and improves your egg quality. Plus, yoga's a big help in combating all that stress that comes with infertility and… well, life. Which is pretty important, considering that earlier this year scientists finally found a definitive link between stress and infertility, when a study determined that women who are stressed take are less likely to conceive. And it's no wonder, says Strong, since the body begins to shut down in all sorts of ways when you're stressed. But by getting your inner yogi on, you can naturally lower your blood pressure, alter your physiological response to stress, and even increase circulation (which is often to blame for a lot of otherwise unexplainable infertility issues).
Like yoga, acupuncture helps reduce anxiety and depression (not to mention improves endocrine and metabolic problems, and reduces inflammation throughout the body), and it's a growing trend among couples trying to conceive. And here’s why: Studies have shown that women who get acupuncture treatments while undergoing IVF treatments actually boost their chances of becoming pregnant by 65%. True story.
Acupuncture has also been shown to help the male reproductive system, which is pretty noteworthy considering that 20% of the infertility issues couples face are caused by the male partner alone.
Bodywork or Massage
Out of the 6.1 million women in the U.S. who have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, many will be told that their problem is a blocked fallopian tube. Enter fertility massage, a popular alternative to the costly (and invasive) surgery that might otherwise be needed to break up blockages. While scientists have not yet proven its effectiveness in specifically breaking up such blockages, deep tissue massage lowers your stress level and heart rate, and makes your connective tissue suppler – which, in turn, can help problems with lymph glands, scar tissue, adhesions — and other factors that can block blood flow throughout the body.
Chinese Herbal Supplements
In about 10-15% percent of infertility cases, couples may be told they have what's known as "unexplained infertility" — in other words, no known physical reason for why they can’t conceive — and more and more of those couples are turning to homeopathic remedies, like herbs, as an alternative. "Think of your reproductive system as a symphony playing," says Strong. "If one of your violins is out of tune, your whole orchestra is off. So what holistic remedies like Chinese herbal remedies do is make sure your hormones are all playing together."
Before you go Googling herbs online, speak with your Reproductive Endocrinologist — you'll most likely be able to find a trusted acupuncturist in your area who can advise you on which herbs are recommended for women trying to conceive (like Sheng Di Huang, Shan Yao, and Dan Shen). Plus, Strong notes that having your RE and any outside homeopathic doctor work together on your fertility issues will just be an added bonus in the end.
We don't blame you if you have a hard time believing that you can be "brainwashed" into conceiving. But that's not what hypnotherapy is about — so read on!
Just like yoga and acupuncture, hypnotherapy's success rate is simply rooted in its ability to relieve underlying anxiety and stress. Every hypnotherapist will work differently, but the basic idea behind it is that the hypnotherapist plants a positive "suggestion" in your mind while you’re under hypnosis — a statement or some kind of mantra aimed at making you feel calmer or even more confident — that you can recall later to manage your own stress levels. Still skeptical? Consider this: In one noted study, the success rates of IVF treatment doubled, from 14% to 28%, in women who underwent both IVF and hypnotherapy at the same time.