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Many Women and
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Mind/Body Issues for Infertility

Linda Kanefield, Ph.D.
CO-Director, Psychological Services
George Washington University Medical Center
Division of Reproductive Endocrinology
Fertility Private Practice in Psychotherapy and Evaluation, Chevy Chase, MD

What is a mind/body approach to infertility? A mind body approach to infertility is built on the premise that each person is a whole person; the mind and body are integrated. What affects the body, affects the mind; what affects the mind, affects the body.

While treating the whole person cannot ensure a pregnancy, there is significant evidence that a mind/body perspective can help women reclaim their bodies as their own, diminish stress, increase a sense of well being, and help rebuild an important sense of control. Addressing the emotional and psychological issues that often accompany infertility can help couples to feel that they are taking an active role in regaining their positive feelings about themselves and their lives.

Why is a mind/body approach helpful? An integrative perspective that respects connections between the mind and body can be critical in coping with infertility. A diagnosis of infertility is often experienced as a betrayal of one's body and as an injury to self-esteem. The most ordinary of expectations about being able to become pregnant is shattered.

Many women, and their husbands along side them, feel an increase in their stress level. Sadness, depression, and anxiety can mount as they confront one loss and disappointment after another. A loss of the feeling of control, an erosion of hope, marital strain, and a sense of isolation complicate these typical emotional responses.

What mind/body approaches are available? There are many avenues toward increasing well being in the context of infertility. They all begin with taking one's feelings - even painful ones - seriously and learning new ways to cope with them. Psychological counseling and support groups where members can share their stories, improve their communications skills, and learn they are not alone can help. Expressing feelings in this way can aid in emotional and interpersonal healing.

Alternative interventions can complement medical treatments, and strengthen the heart and mind to embark on the next medical procedure with renewed energy. Relaxation techniques, including meditation, yoga, mindfulness training, spiritual exploration, and journal writing are all methods which can contribute to a more positive peace of mind.

Although individuals may prefer one technique over another, all mind/body approaches focus on strengthening and integrating the connections between the emotional and the physical to reestablish a sense of control, to help resolve loss, and to assist in moving on with life in a healthful manner.  

Fact Sheet from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

When Should We Seek Counseling?

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