Relax and Let it Happen

Busybodies delight in giving advice to those with fertility issues. One of their favorite claims is: "You just have to relax."

The fact is that according to Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, and author of Conquering Infertility, "…there is no evidence that relaxation per se leads to conception."

Infertility is classified as a disease by most health-related governmental bodies. As a disease, it can be thought of as being in the same class as cancer or diabetes. No one would tell a cancer patient that if he'd just relax, his tumor would shrink. In the same vein, taking a yoga class is not liable to unblock your fallopian tubes or change the shape of your sperm.

On the other hand, emotions can cause physiological response. Consider the fact that fear can make you dry-mouthed, cause your heart to beat faster, and your palms sweat. Consider too, some promising results in which relaxation techniques lowered blood pressure without benefit of blood pressure medication. In 1990, Irene L. Goodale documented decreased premenstrual tension in women who used relaxation techniques. The aforementioned Alice Domar cited a study in 1992 in which IVF patients who practiced relaxation techniques prior to the procedure had double the number of pregnancies.

In any case, the stress of infertility is real. Janet L. Blenner in 1990 described the eight step emotional progression of infertile couples.

1) Dawning of Awareness

Couples plan to have their baby at a certain time, and are surprised when it takes longer. They still identify with fertile couples.

2) Facing a New Reality

A doctor's diagnosis causes the couple to face the reality of infertility. Blame and guilt are assigned, perceptions of success rates are skewed and side effects and risks of treatment are discounted. Isolation from other couples begins.

3) Treatment Begins

Hope, excitement, and high energy are experienced.

4) Intensifying Treatment

Infertility becomes the focus. More money and time are sacrificed. Anger and depression, increasing isolation, loss of control, avoidance of activities involving children.

5) Spiraling Down

Tears, feeling of being overwhelmed and enraged by the unfairness of infertility.

6) Letting Go

Husbands first, then wives resume control of life, start to socialize but without children. Quitting the fight for fertility becomes okay.

7) Quitting and Moving On

Initial feeling of relief, then grief, sometimes initiates adoption procedures.

8) Shifting Focus

Childless couples become resigned, feel peaceful. Adoptive parents focus on the child.

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