Laughter for Fertility
Sunday, 14th September 2014
It may sound like of those ‘easier said than done’ statements, when you are faced with month after month of heartbreaking disappointment, but bringing a bit of humour into your day to day could make all the difference. A recent study by Dr Shevach Friedler looked at the stress levels in women undergoing IVF shows a 16% increase in success rates for women who had laughter therapy after an embryo transfer compared to those who had a ‘comedy free’ recovery. This percentage increased to close on 50% once factors such as age, reason for IVF treatment and number of embryos transferred were taken into account. A good reason as any to take the day off after an embryo transfer and enjoy your favourite comedy, or relax by reading a light hearted, uplifting book. Other studies looking at the stress and anxiety levels of those struggling with fertility show that elevated levels of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenlin, alpha-amalayse and prolactin are likely to play a major role in unexplained infertility. While it can seem flippant to put the cause of infertility down to stress, these hormones effect the female reproductive system at every stage of the cycle.
For example, higher levels of cortisol can disrupt the LH surge inhibiting ovarian function, resulting in untimely release of the egg and a poorly developed corpus luteum. It can also reduce the secretion of oestrogen, limiting cervical mucus production and the development of the endometrial lining.
Poor corpus luteum development can result in lower progesterone levels and consequently luteal phase defects. This interferes with implantation and has been shown to negatively affect immune tolerance in the early stage of pregnancy, an important process responsible for preventing the mothers immune system from rejecting the implanted embryo.
In a different study of American women who had not menstruated for six months or more, for no known reason, were all found to have high levels of urine cortisol levels. Interestingly most of the women reported not to rate themselves as being under stress but researchers noted ‘these women have unrealistically high expectations of themselves and and others. They think they can get more done in a day than what is normally possible and their sense of worth depends on achievement’. After therapy focusing on creating perspective, stress management and self worth 80% of women started menstruating within 5 months compared to 25% of women who did not receive therapy.These finding go to show that by being kind to yourself and looking at ways of reducing possible stressful situations in your daily life will help improve your natural fertility.
While every day doesn’t need to be a super happy, enthusiastic day your stress levels will benefit by giving yourself the time and space to do things that make you happy. Sign up for that class you’ve been wanting to do, get outside for some exercise, read a good book or watch a comedy. Get offline and meet up with supportive friends for a cup of peppermint, rose or camomile tea. And don’t forget your regular acupuncture or massage sessions, they will immediately clear those stress hormones and help brighten your mood.