But couples who do manage to conceive and give birth successfully (after initially struggling) often have several things in common with each other. So I just wanted to break down the three stages of conception success for you to support your journey:
1. Shift Out of the "Fight or Flight" Stress Response
This is first and foremost. When your body is super stressed day in and day out – even if you think of the high paced life as “normal” – the body has to operate in a permanent crisis-mode. Not good for conception. Think of the evolutionary purpose for fight/flight – to survive danger. When we (our species) were either running for our lives or staving of predators, reproduction wasn’t a high priority.
So when your body is stressed now, even if the stress isn’t life-threatening, it defaults to that stress-response state. Reproduction, digestion, and other “secondary” processes in the body (anything not necessary for staying alive in the moment) go to the back burner. All of the body’s blood, oxygen, and energy get directed AWAY from the reproductive system and towards what it considers essential for survival.
This stress response doesn’t hurt reproduction if it’s only engaged on a short-term or a temporary basis, but low blood flow alone through your womb, for example, will cause a big problem for conception if it’s an ongoing issue.
What can you do?
- Find out what the brain has to do with your fertility (we've learned more about the brain in the past 3 years, than in the past 1000 years, so this is important!) – Begin to learn how to reframe the way the brain thinks of stress, handles it, and prioritizes self-care.
- Begin to trace how unhealthy food, toxic environments, poor circulation, and anxiety send your fertility hopes spiraling, by compounding the stressors that the body has to deal with. Any detoxing you do will take some pressure off your body. If it doesn’t have to process fast food for lunch every day, for example, your body will have more energy available to direct toward all that’s required for conception.
- Invite healing into your body for any past stressors or traumas to counter the strain it's managed for too long.
Once fight or flight has been disengaged, it’s important to get your body into the very nurturing response that we like to call rest and digest, a.k.a. “feed & breed.” As I mentioned, digestion and reproduction are low priority when we’re in survival mode, but once we tell our body we are not in physical danger, we want our body to say, “Ok, in that case let’s go ahead and send more blood and oxygen to those ‘non-essential’ functions again.”
This, for many of the people I work with, is easier said than done because they’re just so used to the rat-race. Unwinding is no small task for them. If you find it hard too, stick to it. It’s so important.
What can you do?
- Discover why "safety" is so important to the brain. The brain won’t let the body go into rest and digest mode unless it registers safety, which it can’t do if you have fears constantly running amuck. It’s time to shift those fears. They’re there out of habit, more often than they are there out of usefulness. So let them go. And if you don’t know how, it’s a good thing to get some help with.
- Find ways to calm your system's hyper-vigilance and constant worry. The body is wired to err on the side of caution. For survival, that helped our species out quite a bit for many years. It was a lot better to assume (incorrectly) that stick in the jungle might be a snake and steer clear just in case, than the alternative of making the opposite mistake and getting bit. “Better safe than sorry” served us well when there were more regular encounters with danger to be had, but now is causing spikes in anxiety that do more harm than good. If you’re a worrier – I’m talking to you. It’s not keeping you safe anymore. It’s keeping you pinned down.
- So. The best thing to do is identify the daily practices that cultivate calm in your body, letting it know it's safe to procreate. Find what works for you. Meditation, yoga, exercise, gardening, singing… it has to be something that creates an actual shift in your body, rather than simply creating a temporary distraction.
This stage involves lots of substeps, but once you’re here (if you’ve really shifted yourself out of a constant stress-response) you’ve tipped the scales in your favor considerably. During this phase, there are two key focuses: connecting to your body more, and sustaining “positive” thoughts & emotions.
What can you do?
- Engage in any body-based practice that helps you to recognize more of what’s going on from the neck down, specifically around body sensation. Most in our culture walk around living in our heads, so you need to begin practicing being more cognizant of the rest of you. Please don’t underestimate the importance of this focus. It makes a huge difference in successful conception and later in a healthy pregnancy.
- Cultivate “pleasure pathways”: in your body, your relationships, your daily routine, during sex... This is a huge topic, one that is too often overlooked because it doesn’t sound serious enough. Yet when it comes to the feminine energies needed for conception, it’s a necessity not a luxury.
- Creating support systems for yourself that keep you in a positive state throughout your day (with only occasional spikes of fear). This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say – it’s why some people defy dismal statistics with regards to their fertility and some don't.
These ideas should give you plenty of food for though, and hopefully will inspire you to take some action around the step/s most resonant to you. If you're already getting help with most of these suggestions, consider this a confirmation that you're on the right track. Keep going!!