Acupuncture can be effective in treating anxiety and stress and can be especially important for women experiencing fertility treatment anxiety or stress. Fertility treatment is a process that unsurprisingly brings an array of emotions associated with countless appointments, expectation, waiting, the fear of disappointment and the potential costs of the process. Acupuncture can be powerful in managing emotions, calming patients and encouraging positivity when women are in self-preservation mode one minute, then celebrating the elation of a small piece of positive news the next.
Fertility treatment anxiety
Evidence has shown that 90% of women undergoing fertility treatment have experienced depression, and 42% have reported having suicidal thoughts. IVF brings stress in the form of numerous scans and waiting to find out how many, if any, eggs have fertilised. There’s also the wait to see if and how many eggs reach the blastocyst stage and then the two weeks before pregnancy testing. It’s no wonder your cortisol levels are all over the place.
When to start acupuncture
There is no specific time you should commence acupuncture when going through fertility treatment. Only you will know the support you need if you have fertility treatment anxiety. Before the first round of treatment, there are ongoing GP, gynaecology and blood test appointments. These may leave you starting treatment already drained and exhausted by the constant diary re-arranging around work and home commitments. Such stress and anxiety can take its toll, so acupuncture at this stage may be helpful to give yourself the very best start to fertility treatment.
Calm the Shen
When treating patients undergoing fertility treatment with acupuncture, one of the fundamental principles is to calm the ‘Shen’, which translates as the ‘spirit’ or the ‘mind’. The Shen is housed in the heart, and an imbalance in the Shen can cause anxiety and mental depression. In Chinese Medicine, it’s believed that you cannot treat a patient successfully for fertility without treating the Shen, showing the importance the Chinese placed on emotional balance for conception.
Fertility anxiety treatment
Studies have shown positive findings relating to the treatment of anxiety with acupuncture. With conditions or situations where anxiety is a secondary outcome, such as post-traumatic stress or long-term stressful situations, acupuncture has been positive in treating anxiety. Being unable to conceive naturally can cause long-term stress and acupuncture can help with this fertility treatment anxiety.
Stress and anxiety can manifest in emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms, which acupuncture can treat. Acupuncture has been shown to calm the response of the brain to stress by increasing endorphins to regulate both emotional and physical stress responses. It also regulates serotonin and dopamine, altering the brain’s chemistry to help to combat negative states. Overall, this has a positive effect on blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Importance of self-care
The power of self-care and kindness cannot be underestimated during fertility treatment, and it’s personal to each person what form of self-care they seek. Many women are now seeking complementary therapies to improve fertility treatment success rates and also to help them relax and manage their anxiety and stress throughout. Acupuncture also has the potential to alter energy levels, improve mood and promote calmness and relaxation.
If a cycle fails
A failed cycle brings a whole new level to feeling low, even more so for repeated failed or abandoned cycles. If you do conceive, it’s highly likely you may experience more anxiety given the experience you have been through compared to the average pregnant person. There is little evidence into the long-term effects of IVF on the mental health of fertility patients. However, some evidence points to the short-term effects being worsened after repeated failed cycles.
Regardless of where you are in your fertility treatment, it’s a time that can understandably bring increased anxiety and stress. Whether you want to have acupuncture before you commence your treatment to give you the best possible start or are in a cycle and wish to reduce anxiety levels, acupuncture can help. Acupuncture can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels and increase endorphins. Also, during acupuncture, you can relax both your mind and body to promote a calm state and reduce anxiety. It’s a positive accompaniment to fertility treatment.