How do I build more emotional resilience when Trying to Conceive?
In my Hopeful and Calm Fertility Wellness Community, we recently had a live Q + A on adopting a resilient mindset on your journey (Mindset was the theme for October).
When I asked the group what questions they had, I received things like:
“How to find the balance between letting go, being peaceful and not stressed but still hopeful”?
“What to do (or more what to think) during the luteal phase & “am I pregnant?” phase. As well as during a fertility intervention (like an embryo transfer) which is a really exciting but also stressful experience”
Can you also relate to these questions?
Listen, there’s no denying that the fertility journey is filled with many emotions. And finding a way to balance the ups and downs is a big challenge!
This is where learning about Emotional Balance and Emotional Resilience when it comes to TTC is extremely beneficial.
A big part of your day-to-day wellness (which 100% impacts your fertility) is having realistic expectations.
If you expect (or tell yourself you “should”) be positive ALL THE TIME during your 2 week wait, then you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.
You are HUMAN.
And this means it’s literally impossible to be positive 100% of the time.
Instead, try LETTING YOURSELF FEEL whatever it is you may be feeling.
Now I know this may seem scary, because why would you want to let yourself feel something painful?
But this is the secret to your wellness (and improving your chances of conceiving).
Because when you don’t let yourself feel, you become disconnected from your body.
And when you are disconnected from your body, it’s much harder to listen to the important signs and signals it has for you (like when to eat, when to rest, and when you are in your fertile window).
If you would like to feel more emotional resilience on your fertility journey (which is possible, I promise!), consider joining my Fertility Wellness Community, Hopeful & Calm.
Joining this program doesn't mean everything will be perfect (remember, realistic expectations...perfect doesn’t exist), but I promise, you will feel much more hopeful and calm.
Ps. you can join Hopeful & Calm MONTHLY or for 3 MONTHS (save $44)
Or click HERE for all the details.
Is stress impacting my fertility?
You may have heard that stress can make it harder to conceive, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that is?
I like explaining this in a simple, not overly technical way. Let’s get into it.
When you experience stress it means that your body is in "fight or flight mode" (which I'm sure is a term you have heard of). When there is a predator nearby (in the old days it might have been a tiger - today our predators are things like work and technology) your body senses it's not safe and sends out signals to your internal organs so that you can quickly escape your predator and run towards safety. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all just get up and away from work?
Okay but all jokes aside, the most important takeaway from this example is: stress = your body doesn't feel safe.
With that in mind, does it make sense for your body to allow conception to occur is an unsafe environment (ie. your body)? NO!
So when you are stressed your body will prevent you from becoming pregnant as a protection mechanism! Isn’t that wild?
So, how do you recognize if you are stressed?
(very often we become so functional while experiencing chronic stress that we don't even realize we're stressed! )
First of all, if you've ever thought to yourself: "I wonder if I'm stressed?" then chances are you ARE! These thoughts, or your internal voice, is actually your subconscious mind screaming at you (to show you a red flag your body has been waving but you just haven't noticed yet).
Other signs your body may be feeling stressed are:
One of the best ways I have found to help determine if you are stressed is to observe your breathing patterns (this is where my East meets West approach to the body and wellness comes in).
Your inhalation triggers the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) while your exhalation triggers the parasympathetic branch. When your inhalations and exhalations are not balanced throughout your day, this leads to a dysregulation of your nervous system, which is precisely what stress is (did you know I used to be a neuroscientist? I could go on and on about this 😁).
The other way to tell if your breathing is triggering your body's stress response is to notice WHERE in your body you are breathing. Many of us are chest breathers, and when you breathe mainly in your chest you are not fully utilizing your diaphragm which is the main muscle that regulates the breath and therefore the nervous system.
This is why breath work (in yoga we call this pranayama) is such a great way to balance your nervous system and regulate your stress!
Breath work is a big part of my 21 days to INNER CALM on your Fertility Journey program.
Over 21 days, I will teach you to become aware of your natural breath patterns, and when you notice, you will gain a greater sense of the state of your nervous system throughout your day (which will help you move out of stress and into calm).
I am so excited for this!
ps. Registration closes today (August 31)!!!
I know how frustrating and heart breaking it is when you want to get pregnant, but month after month it’s just not happening and you don’t know why.
Fertility doctors may say there is nothing wrong with you (unexplained infertility) which only makes it more frustrating!
“If nothing is wrong with my partner or I then why can’t we get pregnant?”
I’m here to help you understand why.
The reason why the Western medical system can’t figure out why you aren’t getting pregnant is because they are only looking at your physical body, and your ability to conceive is also a factor of your mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and sexual health.
unexplained infertility is explainable!
You just have to be looking in the right places.
Whether you already have an idea of why you are struggling to conceive or maybe you're still looking for an answer, I’ve put together a quiz to help shed some light on the potential issue.
Or keep on reading to learn more on why you might be struggling to get pregnant.
I believe that there are some important changes you could be making in your life to help increase your chances of becoming the mom that you want to be
Reason #1: You aren’t having intercourse at the right time.
(For same sex couples who are struggling to conceive, please move on to reason #2)
You may think you’re having intercourse at the right time because an app or ovulation predictor kit told you so… but what does your BODY have to say?
Your body gives you signs that you are in your fertile window. But you may have been taught to trust technology over your body. The problem with technology is that it is prone to error.
Fertility apps predict ovulation based on an algorithm, so if you are only inputting the first and last day of your period, it could be getting things wrong.
Ovulation predictor kits let you know when you have already ovulated, which is good, but to give yourself the greatest chance at fertilization you need to be having sex during your fertile window BEFORE you ovulate!
The BEST way to determine your fertile window is to track your basal body temperature (BBT) with a thermometer and track the evolution of your cervical mucus throughout your cycle. This is especially important if you are having irregular cycles, which may be the case if you have PCOS.
Reason #2: You are in a rush.
I know, it’s SO HARD to be patient. Especially if you feel like your biological clock is ticking! But when you are in a rush to get pregnant it signals to your nervous system that you are in danger; that your body is not a safe place to be, and this makes it even harder.
If you are just starting to try to conceive (TTC) I suggest that you set out a realistic timeline for yourself of how long it will take you to get pregnant naturally. Knowing these statistics can help:
You may begin to think that something is wrong with you if you don’t get pregnant right away or if you have a miscarriage, but don't jump to this conclusion too fast!
It’s a good idea to get testing done if you are not pregnant after 12 months of trying (or after 6 months if you are over the age of 35). But please don’t lose hope too quickly! Often, your body just needs a little more time, a little more kindness, and a little more trust.
If you currently doing or considering IUI or IVF
It’s especially important to notice if you feel like you are in a rush while doing fertility treatments. Sometimes a few failed IUIs or a failed IVF cycle is a sign from your body that something needs to change before you continue. I know you or your doctor are probably eager to “keep the momentum going”... but again, it is important that your body doesn’t feel forced or rushed (as this is a trigger for your nervous system- signaling that you are in danger!).
And finally, do you feel a general sense of urgency in your day to day? Do you feel like there is never enough time, that you are constantly rushing, and that it is hard for you to slow down? If so, then this can absolutely be preventing you from getting pregnant.
and find out which aspect of your wellness needs a tune-up for optimal fertility
Reason #3: You’re not being kind to yourself
Do you ever notice the words that you say to yourself? I like to call this your INNER VOICE.
We are so hard on ourselves so much of the time!
In a culture where “more is better” and where productivity reigns, it’s way too easy to get caught up in feeling like you or your life is not enough. Especially when you feel like your body is failing you.
But what if you could learn to soften your inner voice, speak kinder words to yourself, and adopt a mindset that YOU ARE ENOUGH?
You may be wondering: but what does this have to do with my fertility journey?
One of the principles of cognitive behavioral psychology is that our thoughts determine our emotional states, and our emotional states influence our physical health.
In other words: “thoughts become things”.
If you are not being kind to yourself, then your body will not be kind to you. It’s as simple as that.
On a journey where you may feel like so much is out of your control, the good news is that changing your inner voice is one thing you do have control over. It’s not hard, but it does require consistent attention and effort.
Still unsure as to why you’re not getting pregnant?
Reason #4: You're Having A Hard Time Trusting
Do you have trust issues? Maybe you don’t really trust your fertility doctor…Maybe you don’t trust a stranger who is trying to teach you something new 😉...Maybe you don’t trust your own body...Or maybe you don’t trust in a force that is greater than you (such as the Universe or God).
After years of work in this field, if there is one thing I know, it’s that trust is an integral part of the fertility journey. I’m not saying that you need to become religious, or even spiritual (although developing a spiritual practice can definitely help!). What I am saying is that you need to learn how to trust.
I know this can be hard, especially when you’ve experienced loss, or one disappointment after another. But how can you reframe your mindset, so that every negative result, every block you've experienced on your fertility journey becomes one more turn on your path, bringing you closer to your baby?
It’s possible to learn to trust. I promise.
Because without trust, what do you have?
Is lack of trust getting in the way of your fertility journey?
Reason #5: What happened to having FUN?
You probably spend most of your time working, going to various appointments with your team of wellness professionals, and you may even have a second full time job at the fertility clinic (because IUI and IVF sometimes feels like it’s a second job, right?). Maybe you’ve recently eliminated gluten, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol from your diet. And in your spare time, you read and research other lifestyle changes you can be making to help boost your fertility…
But what happened to having FUN?
The fertility journey can definitely take the "F" out of fun! I know it’s probably much harder to bring fun into your life right now, but I also know that it’s possible to get creative.
I believe that FUN is an integral part of the fertility journey. Because fun brings JOY, and when your body feels JOY it also feels SAFE, and when your body feels safe it signals to your nervous system that it is the right time and the right place for fertilization to occur.
🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸
If you’re thinking, Lauren, all of this information is great! But I'm not sure which one of these reasons may be contributing to why I am struggling to get pregnant… By taking the quiz I’ve put together, we can help narrow things down, and you can start making the necessary lifestyle changes to help you along your fertility journey.
And please remember, you are not alone in this journey. I would love to support you through my 3 month group container, Fertile from Within, where we will identify your deeply rooted fertility blocks, heal your womb, mind, and heart, and become the Mother you want to be.
Cycle days following menstruation
The days following your period can be a wonderful time to embrace a new beginning, and look forward with hope about new possibilities.
Ayurveda (which is an ancient form of Indian holistic medicine) recognizes the 3 days following menstruation as a ‘transitional phase’.
During this transitional phase, you may feel excited, or you may still feel a little tired, or even drained and exhausted.
If you’ve never paid attention before, I encourage you to notice your energy levels on the days following your period as it can be a good indicator of whether or not you took enough time to rest during your bleed. Remember, we cannot heal without rest!
Practicing an appropriate yoga sequence on the days after menstruation can be a great way to restore your energy levels and bring balance to both your endocrine and nervous system.
What type of yoga should you be practicing after your bleed?
What would be an “appropriate yoga sequence”?
Regardless of your perceived energy levels, it’s best to build up to your regular yoga practice gradually following menstruation, especially if you are experiencing PMS symptoms or are struggling to conceive.
A suitable sequence for the 3 days following the last day of your period is one with:
During this time, you can use affirmations that acknowledge the start of a new beginning such as:
“I look forward to new possibility” or
“I set myself free” or
“I open myself to my highest potential”
The following reel will give you an idea for a quick sequence you can do at home during this phase of your cycle.
You can access more yoga for fertility videos on my Youtube channel.
And to try a full 60 minute fertility yoga practice click here.
Is it ok for me to practice yoga while I am menstruating?
My answer, and that of many wise yogis including Geeta Iyengar is that yes, it’s ok to practice yoga while you are bleeding. BUT it should specifically be a restorative form of practice- one which encourages rest and relaxation.
If you have never practiced restorative yoga before - this is a practice which uses many yoga props to support and hold your body in place so that your muscles can relax. Postures are held anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes.
The more comfortable you can be in your body during this time, the more your mind will be able to relax, so it’s worth taking the time to make small adjustments until your body feels “just right”.
Restorative yoga is a practice that works to rest and restore your nervous system and energetic system. It requires time, warmth, quiet, and stillness. If you are not used to going slow or being still you may find this practice challenging - so please make the intention to practice with self-compassion and kindness, and equanimity (meaning non-judgement).
It’s worth noting that in native American tradition, a woman is considered to be at her most powerful spiritually when she is menstruating. This makes your restorative practice during this time the BEST way to work on strengthening your mind-body connection through visualization and affirmations (which we will do during the practice below).
Restorative yoga is great at calming the mind- so after you practice is a great time to do some introspection and journaling to gain clarity on any big questions or decisions you are currently faced with.
What yoga poses should you NOT practice during menstruation?
It is important not to practice any inverted poses, active back bends, and strong twisting poses as these disturb apana vayu- the downward flow of vital energy in the low abdomen that supports elimination.
Please note that if you FEEL like you want to continue with your regular yoga practice or exercise routine while menstruating, it may feel good at the time, but it will deplete your energy stores later in your cycle (and adequate energy is essential for conception and embryo growth).
A short yoga practice for your menstrual phase
In this menstrual phase yoga practice we will start with a mindfulness exercise to help you acknowledge and accept any difficult emotions you may be experiencing at this time. We will then perform a few postures to relax your nerves and uterus, followed by postures to calm the brain and soothe the abdomen, and finally we will end with two postures to balance your hormones and rest your nerves.
For this practice you will need:
If you haven’t already, set your yoga mat up in a warm, quiet, and dark space. You may want to light a candle or essential oil diffuser, and you can even play a relaxing playlist of your choice. I would recommend wearing a long sleeved shirt and socks to help keep your body warm.
I hope you enjoy this practice (and if you do please subscribe and leave me a comment).
Subscribe to my Youtube channel for more short mindfulness, movement, and meditation practices for more ease and less worry on your Motherhood journey.
And register for a free 60 minute fertility yoga class here.
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.”
The antidote to fear is faith (which is something many of us lack today. You do not have to be religious to have faith. Faith is a CHOICE. Really. A choice that often requires a few mindset shifts.
You might be wondering HOW you start to make this shift?
Here are a few things you can do to begin transforming your fear into faith:
1- write down a list of your fears. Take a moment to choose ONE that stands out to you the most.
2- write your fear down as a positive “what if” statement:
3 - continue to imagine a scenario where this positive, what if statement were true. Be creative, have fun! Write down all the good that could come from your positive "what if" statement.
4- now reread what you have written and pay particular attention to how you feel while reading those words.
5- later, you may want to rephrase your positive “what if” statement as an affirmation. So this would mean taking the “what if” away and phrasing it as a “I am” statement instead:
Ex: “I am at the perfect (or just right if you don’t like the word perfect) age to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
6- finally, you can rewrite your affirmation on a small paper and place it somewhere like next to your bed so you will read it morning and night.
*** remember, repetition is key to this exercise
*** it’s best to repeat your affirmation when you are in a deep state of relaxation (which is similar to hypnosis). It’s easier to reprogram our thoughts in this brain state.
A perfect time to do this exercise would be after my free 60 minute Fertility Yoga class.
You get to choose to have faith.
You get to choose the words you say to yourself.
Transforming your fears into faith is a practice.
A practice that requires consistent, daily effort.
One day at a time,
One thought at a time,
You will get there.
If you are curious about how these practices can help you on your fertility journey the following post could be an interesting read: Infertility explained from an East-meets-West-perspective.
Unexplained infertility diagnosis
After a year or more of trying to conceive (TTC) without success you may decide it's time to go see your family doctor or a fertility specialist. This is a great idea. A Western medical professional can recommend blood work to check your hormones and imaging (an abdominal or endovaginal ultrasound) if there is reason to believe there might be a problem in your reproductive organs. Fertility clinics can also test your partner’s (if you have one) sperm to see if male factor infertility might be at play.
If something is found to be ‘abnormal’ with your test results you may be relieved to learn you now have something to work on or fix. But, for many couples, the results often come back saying that there is nothing wrong, leaving a feeling of frustration about this ‘unexplained infertility’ diagnosis.
Many of my client often find themselves asking the question: “If the Western medical system says there is nothing wrong with me, then why can't I get pregnant?”
Here is my answer for you from an East meets West perspective.
The 5 Koshas (layers of the body)
The Western medical system uses a system of inquiry and chemical tests that look only at your physical body: ie. your organs, tissues, and systems (mainly reproductive and endocrine). However, according to Eastern medicine and the yoga tradition, everyone of us has not only a physical body, but also 4 other bodies or sheaths (you can read more about it in this article from Yoga International) called Koshas.
In this model, optimal health and wellness is dependent on the proper functioning of all 5 sheaths (Koshas) and therefore infertility could be caused by a dysfunction in any of the sheaths (and not just in the physical one). Unfortunately the Western medical system does not have tests to look for dis-ease in the non-physical sheaths of the body, therefore we must turn to Eastern medicine or holistic practitioners who specialize in this domain.
Here is a summary I’ve assembled of potential imbalances or dysfunctions you may have in any given Kosha as well as what type of holistic practice/practitioner might be able to heal that imbalance.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused by this table, do not despair! Take some time to wrap your mind around it and let it fuel your curiosity to gather more information. Also note that yoga and meditation can help heal each sheath. This is why yoga is so transformative: because it is one practice that works on all the koshas at the same time.
Over the years I’ve noticed that many of the women who come to me for private fertility consultations seem completely overwhelmed by all the information and misinformation out there on holistic fertility practices. The number one recommendation I have for them is: work with only ONE holistic practitioner at a time. Often, there seems to be a need to do ALL the things at once- but you don’t need to do all the things: you only need to do the right thing for YOU. And sometimes determining what that 'right thing' is takes time. In the scientific method we change only one variable at a time, so we can accurately determine if that variable is giving us results. I urge you to do the same.
If you are currently TTC with an unexplained infertility diagnosis, please know that there is hope. And know that you have more options than IUI/IVF. Although natural fertility practices may not have tons of peer reviewed studies to support their effectiveness, that doesn’t mean they don’t work. There are many, many success stories out there of women who changed their diet, or lifestyle, or beliefs, and became pregnant naturally against all odds.
I spent over half my life studying the sciences, specifically physiology and neuroscience. Then, while teaching science to high school students, I developed an interest in yoga. It was the only activity I found that was able to help my migraines and debilitating anxiety. I have devoted the last decade of my life to 1) becoming a mom and 2) immersing myself in the study of yoga and Eastern medicine. Today, I am passionate about bridging together Western and Eastern sciences to better understand the reasons why many women have difficulty becoming and staying pregnant.