Another take on infertility – mind and emotions

The Fertile Body Method programme combines hypnosis and other mind-body approaches.

The role of the mind and emotions on fertility is one that is often overlooked.

It is aimed at helping couples deal with the effects of fertility problems and to identify and make changes that can positively impact fertility. It acknowledges the importance of working together with other specialist to create well-coordinated combinations of treatments.

Viewing health as more than a physical issue is certainly not a new concept.  Health is experienced as mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.  Many cultures throughout the world use a medical model that fully acknowledges the inter-connectedness between these different aspects of our being.

Experiencing problems with conception

Problems with conception and pregnancy can occur when our basic physical and emotional needs are not being met and the mind and/or body have temporarily lost their natural state of balance and harmony.   Imbalance may be caused by external environmental factors, unhealthy internal processes or the inability to get one’s basic physical and emotional needs met in a healthy way. There is usually no single cause for fertility problems therefore an integrated approach using a combination of treatments is far more likely to give positive results.

The role of your mind and emotions

The role of the mind and emotions in fertility is a vital one that is often overlooked.  Mind/body medicine is an approach to health that recognizes the effect that our mind has on our body and vice versa.  This model views the various aspects of ourselves and the different systems of our body as a part of the greater whole.  This holistic approach acknowledges the effect that one part, or one system, will have on another.  It recognizes that a human being is a dynamic living organism that strives to maintain balance and wellbeing through obtaining the right physical and emotional nourishment from its environment and incorporating it correctly into its system.

Body seen as a machine to be fixed

It was only after René Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician in the 1500’s, proposed that the mind and body operate separately with no inter-connectedness, that the body was seen as a machine that could be mechanically fixed.  This attitude towards the body has dominated much of Western medicine and given rise to mechanistic approaches to fertility, such as IVF.  While these kinds of treatments can be a wonderful way to address biological problems affecting fertility, they have, in some ways, continued to propagate the myth that the body, and indeed fertility, are mechanical.


People who have problems conceiving may experience a reduced sense of mental, emotional and physical wellbeing that leaves them feeling stressed, frustrated, angry, jealous, guilty, hopeless, anxious or depressed.  It can affect their work, friendships, family and relationships.

How stress affects reproduction

The hypothalamus gland (located below the thalamus, just above the brain stem)senses stress.  It takes the stress we feel and signals the pituitary gland (a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain) to act accordingly.  Those signals create corresponding hormonal responses.  Those hormones – when we are stressed – are physiological instructions directed at the reproductive system (including the ovaries) saying this person is too stressed to reproduce at this time.

Other affects stress has:

  • Often has an adverse effect on reproductive hormones (especially FSH and LH)
  • Promotes the production of cortisol, the stress hormone – inhibits production of progesterone and both a woman and man’s fertility by decreasing estrogen and testosterone
  • Engages the sympathetic nervous system (elevated heart rate, higher blood pressure, constricted blood vessels which can result in insufficient uterine blood flow).
  • From an Eastern Medicine perspective, stress blocks the energetic flow leaving the reproductive system too deficient to function at is potential.
  • The body goes into survival mode and stays out of reproduction mode.


Conventional infertility treatments can be very expensive and only has a typical success rate of between 3 – 25 %. These include: IUI/Clomid with a typical success rate of 3-6% at a cost of R6500 and IVF with a typical success rate of 20-25% at a cost of R65 000. Hypnosis or mind/body work is an alternative to the above, with a typical success rate of 42-65% at a cost of R8000.

It may be that a person will have a biological problem that necessitates Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF, IUI etc. Mind/body approaches are known to increase the success rates of such interventions (Dr. Eliahu Levitas, Soroka University Medical Center, Beer Sheva;  Dr. Alice Domar, Harvard Medical School).

*Linda Clarke is a qualified Hypnotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner, Life Coach and Massage Therapist. She has a holistic approach to mind and soul.


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