Infertility in men and women: How can hypnotherapy help?
Infertility in one sense of the word means when one is infertile and cannot reproduce. Infertility is also used when someone has not successfully conceived a pregnancy within a year of having regular unprotected sex.
Improvements in technology make it easier to work out what can cause infertility. If you choose to have medical tests, a reproductive endocrinologist will look at your reproductive system and hormone balance to see if there is an obvious reason that you have not conceived. However, what causes infertility is not always physical and obvious. Sometimes there is no explanation for infertility.
Depending on your goal, hypnotherapy can help both explained and unexplained infertility.
What causes infertility in women?
Atypical ovulation might impede conception. Ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome correlate with hormonal imbalances. Ovulation is sporadic for some and non-existent for others. Known as anovulatory infertility, it is challenging because to conceive you need to have unprotected sex around ovulation.
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes sometimes restrict the passage of the egg or sperm so the two cannot meet. You might have damaged fallopian tubes from surgery. For those that have had chlamydia, infertility might be a result of blocked tubes due to pelvic inflammatory disease at the time of the infection, this is also considered with gonorrhoea or other sexually transmitted infections.
For some people, fertility uterine or cervical causes such as fibroids, cervical stenosis or nonoptimal cervical mucous limit fertility. For those with endometriosis, infertility is sometimes expected. You might have been told years before wanting a baby that you will struggle to conceive. This adds another factor to the reason for no pregnancy in the mind of a natural health practitioner – your expectations.
When the cause cannot be found, the medics define it as 'unexplained infertility'.
What causes infertility in men?
Male factor infertility happens when there is low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. These problems can occur due to hormonal imbalances as with female infertility.
Certain lifestyle choices might affect the quality and quantity of the sperm. Enlarged veins in the scrotum can affect blood flow and sperm production. There are other physical problems such as retrograde ejaculation and congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens.
A fertility clinic will run tests to check for male factor infertility as well. There is a fairly even split between male factor infertility, female factor infertility and unexplained infertility.
Hypnotherapy for infertility
Studies show hypnotherapy is a beneficial complementary therapy in a fertility journey. However, a hypnotherapist will also work with you to help you in many other ways, such as managing the emotions that often arise when trying to conceive.
If there is an issue preventing you from moving forwards, such as previous trauma creating problems with intimacy or a fear of needles stopping you from taking the next medical intervention, a hypnotherapist with experience in these areas will help you.
How does hypnotherapy for fertility work?
In October 2003, Fertility and Sterility Journal published a small, uncontrolled clinical study titled ‘Treatment of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) with hypnotherapy’ and the objective was ‘to determine the effects of hypnotherapy on resumption of menstruation in patients with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA).’
12 women with FHA of an average age of 26, with a history of amenorrhea of at least six months' duration, participated in the hypnotherapy trial. The participants had one session of hypnotherapy with a duration of 45–70 minutes. During the hypnotherapy session, the participants received a very thorough overview of hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapist used metaphorical visualisations and posthypnotic suggestions within the session.
After 12 weeks, nine of the participants reported the onset of menstruation. One participant fell pregnant after the first menstruation, three experienced a regular cycle length, two had a slightly longer cycle length and the remaining three menstruated once. All participants spoke about the positive side effects of the hypnotherapy session.
In 2013, the Journal of the Indian Medical Association published a study titled 'Psychotherapeutic intervention with hypnosis in 554 couples with reproductive failure'. The study objective was to establish the efficacy of psychotherapeutic intervention, including hypnotherapy in couples with unexplained infertility. Over a period of 28 years, 554 couples without any anatomical or physiological anomaly participated in the study.
The standard protocol for investigation and therapy was psychotherapy with indirect and direct hypnosis. The intention of the hypnotherapy was general stress relief initially and focused on specific stressors subsequently. The participants in the study had no anatomical defects but they did have stress in their environment.
All participants received an easy-to-understand explanation of the mind-brain-pituitary-gonad axis initially, alongside supportive, client-centred indirect hypnosis with a personalised strategy. This included guidance about life situations and common methods of tension control such as muscle relaxation techniques and deep breathing.
Milieu therapy helped change the family and job environment and behavioural responses to it alongside occupational therapy to help engagement in hobbies or job hunting. Cognitive therapy enhanced insight into emotions and positive thinking processes. Later, the researchers used more direct approaches including an exploration of their neurotic defence mechanism.
Vyas also performed his own version of Huhner’s test, which seeks to investigate how the sperm performs in the cervical mucus. The couples saw their own sperm-mucous mixture. Watching the sperm dart around was found to be a highly effective confrontational indirect hypnosis, especially when the couples received help to appreciate that conception takes only one sperm.
The researchers said hypnotherapy was the forte in the study. Pregnancy occurred in 397 couples. Within six months, 213 couples achieved pregnancy, 65 within seven to 12 months, 92 in one to two years and 27 achieved a successful pregnancy after two years. An overall success rate of 71%.
The researchers considered a dropout a failure. In total, 157 couples dropped out. 26 couples had a laparoscopy to exclude spasms of the tubes. The group did have a spasm of the tube and the researchers explained to them that there was no block of the tubes but a spasm that is a symptom of a psychological issue. Following indirect hypnosis, 16 of these couples (61.5%) conceived.
The researchers did not stop working with any of the couples at their choice. The only couples that left the study did so because it did not meet their expectations.
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