Mind-Body Approach Can Boost Infertility

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Complementary treatments such as yoga, acupuncture beneficial for many patients.

When it comes to getting pregnant, many patients aren’t just relying on science and medicine. They’re also turning to ancient mind-body techniques to help them conceive.

The Reproductive Medicine Group’s Dr. Sandy Goodman believes that as many as 25 percent of her patients seek out holistic treatments such as yoga and acupuncture or courses in mindfulness, complementary treatments she fully supports and often encourages.

“I support it because it makes a difference,” Dr. Goodman said. “We find that our patients experience more relaxation and their ability to cope with the difficulty they are experiencing becoming pregnant is improved when complementary treatments are added to their care.”

Noting that the inability to conceive can be enormously stressful, Dr. Goodman believes complementary treatments reduce stress on both the body and mind, and help patients feel more in control, all of which can have a positive effect in conception.

“When you go beyond the physical, you can treat the whole person,” said Kathy Fountain, a licensed mental health counselor and founder of Kathy Fountain Fertility. Doctors at The Reproductive Medicine Group often refer patients to Fountain’s practice, which offers regular sessions of the researched-based, “Mind Body Program” in Tampa Bay. Participants learn a philosophy called relaxation response, which brings the mind and body into alignment. Techniques such as guided meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and acupuncture are all techniques that help deliver that alignment. “The mind body philosophy has shown success. It’s not a guarantee for getting pregnant, but we’re seeing results,” added Fountain, who noted that the techniques learned not only aid patients during the stresses of infertility, but for many other life issues.

Reducing mind and body stress are the goals of both acupuncture and yoga, which are believed to increase blood flow and circulation to the uterus and other parts of the body which aide in implantation. In the case of acupuncture, a 3,000 year old practice, the treatment of placing thin needles just below the surface of the skin is believed to also improve the body’s endocrine system.

Kym Caporale, a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, frequently sees patients from The Reproductive Medicine Group at her St. Petersburg practice.

“It’s really a mind body process,” she noted, adding that research into the benefits of acupuncture show that it increases the chances of pregnancy by 40 percent. Many of her patients make weekly visits while they are undergoing IVF or other medical fertility treatments, and continue through their first trimester of pregnancy.

Yoga is another complementary treatment that shows great success. Registered nurse and certified yoga instructor, Sherry Longbottom holds regular Fertility Yoga sessions where she guides women through a variety of yoga poses which can be continued once pregnancy is achieved. The focus is on proper breathing and circulation.

“When they leave, the women have less stress,” said Longbottom. “And the classes are also a pseudo-support group where they can be encouraged and encourage others.”

Complementary treatments are not substitutes for medical treatments, in most cases, and solid research regarding its effectiveness is inconclusive. However, doctors at The Reproductive Medicine Group see the benefits, and are supportive of a mind-body approach when treating their patients.

Added Dr. Goodman, “In the end, we want patients to do what’s right for them.”