Thinking about starting a family and trying to become pregnant is likely to be a time of mixed emotions in your life. The average age of a woman having her first baby has become much higher in the past couple of generations, as women’s career roles, aspirations and expectations have changed. However with each passing year a woman’s fertility decreases. By the age of 35 the chances of becoming pregnant are greatly reduced.
So often when women begin planning a family, by the time they realise they are having difficulty conceiving, they have the added pressure of time. It makes sense to check out both partners physical health first. Research suggests that of all cases of infertility, approximately one third can be attributed to a physiological cause in the woman, another third attributable to some physiological issue for the man, and roughly one tenth of the time issues involving both partners. This leaves 10-20% undetermined or unexplained infertility.1 That’s up to 1 in 5 of all cases of infertility with no cause identified, also called idiopathic infertility. It would be reasonable to assume that if all physical causes have been excluded in this age of incredible medical imaging and testing, there is likely to be some proportion of psychological factors having an influence.
What options are available to address the psychological impact on infertility?
Increasingly hypnotherapy is becoming a first line approach.
There are several reasons that fertility specialists are recommending Hypnotherapy.
It’s fast and efficient. A typical series of hypnotherapy sessions is on average 4-6 hours. Compared with other psychotherapy or counselling options that take weeks or even years to see similar outcomes, hypnotherapy can create rapid lasting change. This efficiency is often paramount, as a woman’s fertility progressively declines with age, so time is a luxury they just don’t have.
It has financial benefits. The time efficiency also translates to financial savings. When used as an adjunct to other fertility treatments, hypnotherapy can optimise the chances of success, reducing the chances of needing additional expensive assisted reproductive treatment cycles. Research shows that hypnosis can positively influence IVF success rates. This study found that the use of hypnosis during Embryo Transfer (ET) almost doubled the success of the IVF/ET cycle outcome. They obtained an implantation rate of 28% among hypnosis IVF/ET cycles, compared to an implantation rate of 14.4% in the control cycles, who didn’t receive hypnosis.
Its natural and gentle on the body. When trying to conceive it’s especially important to eliminate, or reduce all unnecessary medications. Anti-anxiety or sedative medications may carry a risk of potential harmful side-effects or reactions. Hypnosis is often described as feeling deeply pleasant relaxing experience. It can induce feelings of calm, and reduce the body’s stress hormones naturally. These effects can remain after the actual experience of hypnosis.
It can be chosen as a stand-alone option. Hypnosis is a technique that can decrease stress levels and improve people’s mindset, the impact of this alone may influence a woman’s chance of conceiving without the need for other treatments. Or when used in conjunction with fertility treatments, it supports and enhances the client’s health without interfering with the other treatments. Studies have shown that psychotherapy, including hypnosis, can positively influence psycho-dynamically triggered infertility, showing a 71% pregnancy rate in participants.2
It can improve people’s overall experience. Fertility specialists primarily want you to have successful treatment. After all they are in the business of making babies. Successful outcomes also improve their ratings and bring in more revenue from recommendations. Hypnosis has been shown to positively effect a person’s attitude toward their fertility treatment as they are going through it.3 Which means fertility specialists are often very supportive of this additional therapy as not only will the client be overjoyed with a positive outcome, they will also have greater personal resource to cope with a potential unsuccessful treatment cycle.
It might improve the possibility of having the optimal family size. Many people would prefer more than one child. When having problems conceiving, as investigations and treatments take time, the earlier a cycle is successful, the more time there is to realistically consider having subsequent children.
How does hypnotherapy work to improve fertility?
It’s important to recognise that hypnosis itself is not a therapy. Hypnosis is the vehicle by which psychotherapy is delivered. Hypnosis is a like a fast track to relaxation. It is the antithesis of stress, within minutes your mind can be absorbed in the moment, to the exclusion of all external stimuli, and other negative or intrusive thoughts. Whilst in this relaxed state, the mind is able to be very focused which in turn calms your body’s physiological state. The recipient is much more receptive to suggestions, and that’s where the therapy comes in. The therapeutic benefit is derived from what is said whilst in this state of hypnosis. When you download a hypnosis track from the internet, it might help you feel temporarily relaxed, which whilst very pleasant is unlikely to have further therapeutic benefit.
For many years research has been able to show the positive benefit of hypnotherapy for many physical health conditions that have an emotional component. Most notably; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Migraine, Psoriasis and Chronic pain. Doctors readily recommend hypnotherapy for these patients because they see the evidence of positive outcomes in reduction, or irradication, of the physical symptoms. Many research studies have provided proof that the mind and emotions have a powerful influence over the body, the physiology. But it’s so much more than positive thinking. Often there are complex psychological issues hindering a person’s fertility success. A good hypnotherapist should be able to recognise and target these issues, fears or concerns. It’s possible that you are not even consciously aware of, either the issue, or how it’s affecting you. Some examples of niggling doubts or fears that can create a psycholocal barrier to conceiving might be: A belief that you’ll be no good as a parent, maybe you didn’t have a positive role model? A concern that your child will inherit a trait or condition that you find undesirable? Perhaps you feel ambivalent about the impact becoming pregnant will have on your career. Or maybe it’s simply a combination of many, seemly insignificant, factors that are having a negative influence. And so it is essential to choose the right therapist for your needs to optimise your chances of success.
How do you know which Hypnotherapist to choose?
It is important to do your research when choosing a therapist. There are 4 minimal essential requirements, and some additional points to consider.
Training. Training courses can vary dramatically, from a 2 day weekend certificate, to a government accredited diploma. Ensure the therapist has a nationally recognised qualification from a Registered Training Organisation.
Registration with a National Governing Body or Association National associations such as The Australian Hypnotherapist’s Association (AHA) require certain standards to be met before a therapist can be on the professional register. These include: A reputable qualification, meeting minimum standards. Professional Indemnity insurance. Ongoing regular supervision with a Clinical Mentor. And ongoing continuing professional development and learning requirements.
Additional Qualifications. Further qualifications and experience in a related area. When thinking about fertility options it would be a definite bonus to have some medical qualifications and/or experience. Nurses, midwives, fertility counsellors or psychologists, are more likely to be able to understand your journey and experiences, and know what are the common issues or stumbling blocks. Often people who’ve been through the assisted reproductive journey are attracted to want to help others with the benefit of their insights. However, it’s vital to remember that people are unique. And as individual experiences are so subjective, it’s possible to be less open to the experiences of others, dismissing their priorities or perceptions, or failing to see alternative factors or motivations, influenced by their own experience.
Rapport. It’s really important your therapist is someone that you think you can make a connection with. If there is something that doesn’t sit right with you before you’ve even chatted to them, this might hinder your success. Psychotherapy involves discussing emotional issues, and the experience can leave people feeling vulnerable or emotionally exposed. The therapist you select should be willing to discuss their services without you having to make a commitment upfront. And equally you should be willing to be open and honest if you want to see positive results.
Other Desirable Attributes:
Someone who specialises in fertility issues. Many hypnotherapists are generalists without additional specific interest in fertility related issues. A bonus would be someone who your fertility specialist has previously referred clients to.
Location. If ‘in person’ sessions are important to you, then you need to select a therapist who is close to your home or your work. It’s possible that there will be at least one therapist locally who fits the criteria of essential requirements. However, recent times and social gathering restrictions have been adversely affecting many services.
Online consultations remove the need to be restricted to location. As a ‘talking’ therapy, psychotherapy has been shown to have the potential to be just as effective as face to face consultations. Some of the benefits include: No travel time. Being comfortable ‘in your own space’. Greater anonymity- no chance of being seen in a clinic in your local community. Greater time efficiency.
When is the best time to commence hypnotherapy in a treatment cycle?
Ideally you could start hypnotherapy prior to seeing a fertility specialist. As almost a fifth of all cases of infertility are eventually defined as without a physical cause, then it makes sense to begin your efforts to start a family by being emotionally balanced and resourceful. As discussed earlier, addressing psychological blocks or influences may alone positively impact your fertility.
However, any point after beginning investigations or treatment for infertility is likely to be beneficial. It’s not advised to delay commencing therapy to coincide with an upcoming procedure that is causing you anxiety. Hypnotherapy is not a magical elixir, it is a process that requires some participation on your part. To be at least part way through the process will be most valuable. The relaxation benefits of hypnosis often improve with repeated practice. This doesn’t mean more appointments- you should receive a recording to listen to regularly (self-hypnosis) that reinforces and enhances the effect of the suggestions made.
Many people seek alternative options only after one round of unsuccessful fertility treatment. It’s never too late. Hypnotherapy is especially effective for addressing the myriad of emotions that you might experience; from frustration and anxiety to depression, guilt and grief, hypnotherapy can help you to become emotionally resilient and more prepared for what’s to come.
Whatever stage in the baby making journey you are in, hypnotherapy can not only optimise your chances of success, but also make you feel more positive.
- Vyas, R., Adwanikar, G., Hathi, L., & Vyas, B. (2013). Psychotherapeutic intervention with hypnosis in 554 couples with reproductive failure. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 111(3), 167-9, 173.
- Levitas E, Parmet A, Lunenfeld E, et al. Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertil Steril. 2006;85(5):1404-1408. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2005.10.035