The Mind-Body Connection in Fertility & Pregnancy by Marcy Axness, PhD
One of the biggest challenges we face in creating the lives we want is that our basic attitudes and perceptions of the world were shaped in the earliest days, months and years of our lives, long before we had a chance to form our own opinions! Through the process of “implicit learning,” wordless messages and lessons accrue via repeated experiences within our key relationships, as non-verbal regions of our brains distill the constant principles underlying those experiences. For example, you’re a baby, and you’re hungry. You cry, and before too long someone picks you up, soothes you, and feeds you. As this happens again and again, some of your “perception templates” become shaped from the principles I have an effect on my world… People are there for me… I can trust… Being close to someone feels safe. Our basic understandings of who we are and what the world is all about are a series of “neural perception templates” that were shaped for us, by our earliest experiences with the people and world around us.
Women are almost never told how their family histories,
beliefs, and emotions
affect their fertility. Knowing this information can be very empowering.
— Dr. Christiane Northrup, renowned OB/GYN Author, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
It is also true that some of our most potent attitudes about our reproductive capabilities are formed decades before we decide to begin a family! And in this exciting era of psychoneuroimmunology (mind-body) research, we are discovering how our hormonal, immune, and nervous systems are intimately connected with and influenced by our every thought, attitude and emotion, even ones we’re not aware of having. Along with parental attitudes about the body and its creative functions, as young children we perceive and internalize basic attitudes about such things as
• how babies come into our family (with ease, difficulty, crisis, etc.)
• whether children are loved and valued in our family
• whether it’s safe and desirable in our family to have a childwhether it’s safe and desirable in our family to be a child
Our endocrinology (hormonal profile), so critical to healthy fertility, organizes to “enact” whatever our mental and emotional perceptions dictate. (For example, a hypnotized subject touched on the forearm with a piece of chalk—but told it’s a lit cigarette—develops a raised, red “burn”; and study subjects given a harmless substance, but told it is something to which they’re highly allergic, suffer asthma attacks.) Furthermore, research finds that our healthy mind-body balance is especially affected by “feelings we don’t feel,” unconscious emotions often related to unrecognized neglect, trauma or loss in childhood. Here are two examples of this at work in women who went on to have healthy, full-term babies:
Ellyn* had been trying for a long time to get pregnant, and though there was nothing medically wrong, it just wasn’t happening. An adoptee, Ellyn had wordlessly learned a fundamental mind-body lesson throughout her growing-up years: women in our family don’t get pregnant. After working with a counselor to consciously reconnect with and “claim” the fertile part of her past—her birth mother whom she had met some years earlier—Ellyn was finally able to conceive.
Maya suffered repeated miscarriages, and her doctor could find no physical cause. In charting her family history it became painfully clear that she and her sister had been “throwaway” children, left behind in their native country when their parents emigrated seeking a better life in America. Maya gradually came to understand how she was reenacting—in a classic mind-body way—what her mother had done: she allowed herself to get pregnant but then “gave the children away.”
Sometimes inner shifts happen more spontaneously and mysteriously. We have all heard stories about “infertile” couples who spent many years and thousands of dollars on reproductive technologies with no success, adopted a baby, and then conceived naturally by surprise. People who offer infertile couples the infuriating advice “Just relax!” point to these stories as evidence for their theory. Yes, hopping off of the “conception-go-round” may have decreased stress and nudged their hormonal profile into a more conception-friendly zone, but it may also have to do with their biology adjusting to reflect their new feelings, behaviors and devotions: they had become fully engaged in mothering and fathering.
One of my favorite stories is of a 43-year-old woman who, after a year of grueling rounds of IVF, two miscarriages, and the final, dismal “expert diagnosis” that she was too old and “all of her eggs were bad,” decided to get some cats. She got her cats and “smothered them with unconditional love.” Six months later she was pregnant with her son, who is now a healthy 8-year-old.
It may be important to do some inner investigation into the invisible answers you may be carrying to basic questions about how fertility, pregnancy, birth and children were perceived in your family of origin, so that you can journey ahead into those realms fully free, right down to your biochemistry, and make the healthiest choices. (As a bonus, engaging in the creative process of mastering your own inner life is the best preparation not just for conceiving a baby, but for parenting in general!)
Once we realize how we carry on a continual dialogue with our biology—consciously and unconsciously—we can aspire to cultivate an inner ecology that is truly fit for life.
Scientists now know that a pregnant woman’s moods have a significant impact upon birth outcomes and on fetal brain development. Statistically speaking, women experiencing significant, chronic** fears and anxiety about their pregnancies are at higher risk for delivering prematurely. And in terms of her baby’s development in the womb, if a mother is constantly filled with anxiety or stress during her pregnancy, the message communicated to her baby (via stress hormones) is that they are in an unsafe environment—regardless of whether or not this is actually the case. The baby’s brain will be wired to prepare it for the unsafe environment it perceives it is going to be born into, and is more likely to be a fussy infant—hard to sooth—and later, a more temperamental child—short on attention, and impulsive.
Parents need to recognize the unceasing question being asked by the baby in the womb, and continually answered via the mother’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors: What kind of world am I coming into, Mommy, through your eyes? Then they can begin to understand how important it is for the pregnant mother to feel supported, loved, safe… and most especially, to experience joy… so their baby can arrive as healthy as possible, ready to love and learn!
The Quantum Parenting fertility program, designed to facilitate a “conception-friendly” mind-body state, is intended for use alongside fertility drugs and procedures or as an alternative to medical fertility treatment. Expectant parents benefit from Quantum Parenting’s practical guidelines for mind-body pregnancy health, for optimizing their baby’s development in the womb, and for embarking on their parenting journey in the most effective, rewarding way possible.
*Names have been changed for privacy purposes
** Remember, “chronic” means “persistent…more often than not.” Occasional stressful moments are a normal part of pregnancy and fetal development—it is life!