Using Hypnosis to aid Fertility
Hypnosis for fertility is becoming more and more popular, with thousands of women in the United States and Canada using a treatment called HypnoFertility. Their success stories are glowing enough to make the hardest skeptics smile. More and more women believe that hypnosis increased their chances of conception leading to term, and some preliminary research seems to support this belief: in a 2006 study of 195 patients undergoing IVF, 28% achieved clinical pregnancy with hypnosis at the time of embryo transfer, compared to only 14% without.1
Two studies led by Dr. P. Thiering, in 1993 and 2001,2,3 explored the effects of anxiety and depression on conception, and the results seem to indicate that the process of conception can indeed be influenced by the mind. The first study found that clinical depression affects pregnancy rates in IVF treatment – women with ongoing clinical depression (i.e. depression that was not simply the result of infertility) were only half as likely to become pregnant. His 2001 study incorporated anxiety as well as depression, and found that women with “trait” anxiety – ongoing anxiety in existence prior to infertility diagnosis and treatment – were also only half as likely to see a successful outcome. In 1999, a similar study confirmed the findings that women with depression symptoms resulting from a failed first IVF showed a 60% viable pregnancy rate within six months when these depression symptoms were treated. The women whose symptoms were left untreated before a second attempt showed a pregnancy rate of only 24%.4
These studies may provide a clue as to why so many women feel hypnosis helped them to conceive. Because how we are feeling emotionally affects us physically, treatments like hypnosis for depression and stress could be key.
IVF requires the body to perform the delicate process of conception while the mind is coping with unfamiliar surroundings, privacy-related uneasiness, and invasive procedures. Hypnosis may provide the calming effect that relieves situational stress.
Modern hypnosis techniques are able to bring about internal body changes through what is now known as the Mind-Body Connection – in scientific terms, the neuroendocrine system. The use of these techniques is not new, in fact, documented history of the ability of the mind – and hence hypnosis – to influence the body goes back as far as the early 1800s. The scientific community remained skeptical until 1977, when Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research into this very connection.5
It’s very difficult to prove at what level the mind and metaphors actually connect to and alter bodily states, but time and time again hypnosis is quoted as a catalyst in manifesting change through thought. Ernest Rossi PhD and Kathryn Rossi PhD, award-winning psychologists and pioneers in research of the mind-body connection, have studied this subject in detail. With an increased understanding of how the mind-body connection works within the brain, they are able to teach hypnotists how to apply techniques to effect change. The changes that are useful in working with fertility concentrate on creating a balance within the body. The desired changes are directly influenced by hypnotic suggestion. To cite a popular example of hypnosis affecting this mind-body connection, stage hypnotists often suggest to a volunteer that the temperature is becoming unbearably cold, causing the subject to show signs such as shivering, or likewise, make the suggestions that cause the volunteer to feel hot; the audience witnesses the subject removing articles of clothing in response.
The client’s willing participation is a prerequisite to hypnotic change. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, to the extent that the hypnotist doesn’t – and can’t – force the subject to participate in the process. Without the participation of the client’s mind and belief system, mind-body hypnosis is unsuccessful. The client must allow the hypnotist to guide them through a series of progressive techniques that allow the subconscious to become receptive to suggestions provided through metaphoric imagery. Often the client doesn’t even “feel hypnotized,” as the conscious mind remains active during the process.
The success of Hypnosis for Fertility is not only measured by pregnancy rates. Successful outcomes are the product of many factors, including hypnosis. But the very first objective in hypnosis for fertility is to work with the client to restore a sense of balance in her life. Fertility-specific work focuses on lowering stress levels and “hitting the reset button” – cleaning the physiological slate to be able to move forward in a positive way. This is true for partners also; much of the literature dealing with fertility-related issues focuses on the mother in the relationship, sometimes leaving male partners without adequate support. A 2003 study found that males who had trouble conceiving and reported distress as a result showed lower sperm quality when re-tested a year later.6 Several studies show how stress influences sperm quality, and in some studies timed intercourse is mentioned as a contributing factor in stress related anejaculation (inability to ejaculate).7 Male partners will also benefit from creating moments of calm and inner peace during stressful times.
By: Anthony Santen, CHt.
1. Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertility and Sterility, Volume 85, Issue 5, 2006, Pages 1404-1408
E. Levitas, A. Parmet, E. Lunenfeld, Y. Bentov, E. Burstein, M. Friger, G. Potashnik
2. Mood state as a predictor of treatment outcome after In Vitro fertilization/embryo transfer technology (IVF/ET). Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 37, Issue 5, July 1993, Pages 481-491
P. Thiering, J. Beaurepaire, M. Jones, D. Saunders, C. Tennant
3. The effect of anxiety and depression on the outcome of in-vitro fertilization
Hum Reproduction Volume 16, Issue 7, , 2001, Pages 1420-1423
J. Smeenk, CM Verhak, A Eugster, A. Van Minnen, GA Zielhuis, DDM Braat
4. Distress and conception in infertile women, a complementary approach
Journal of American Medical Womens Association, Vol. 54, No. 5, 1999
Alice D. Domar, PhD, Richard Friedman, PhD, Patricia C. Zuttermeister, MA
5. Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. 1977. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally.
6. Sexual dysfunction in men undergoing infertility evaluation.
Fertility and Sterility, Volume 79, Issue 4, Pages 909-912 (April 2003)
Ramadan A. Saleh, M.D.a, Geetha M. Ranga, Ph.D.b, Rupesh Raina, M.D.a, David R. Nelson, M.S.c, Ashok Agarwal, Ph.D., HCLD
7. Sexual Function and Quality of Life in the Male Partner of Infertile Couples
Journal of Urology, Volume 179, Issue 3, Pages 1056-1059 (March 2008)
Alan W. Shindela, Christian J. Nelsonb, Cathy K. Naughtona, Michael Ohebshalomc, John P. Mulhallc
8. NGH: National Guild of Hypnotists is the modern amalgamation of multiple self-regulating Hypnosis Associations practicing under a common International Code of Ethics requiring each member to stay current in their field to maintain their membership.