Believe You Can Conceive: The Science-Backed Power of Mindset to Support Fertility
This post comes from our friends at WeNatal, a women-led company that helps future parents get all the nutrients they need to produce healthy-as-possible sperm and eggs.
No matter where you are in your fertility journey, there are so many factors to consider. You're faced with countless decisions around what to eat, what not to eat, which supplements to take, and which products to stay away from. But there's one aspect of fertility that isn't discussed much: whether or not you believe you can conceive, aka your fertility mindset.
Mindset is a key part, and sometimes even the missing puzzle piece to the whole fertility picture. As cliche as it sounds, your mental well-being can have a huge impact on your physical body, your health, and your overall quality of life.
Studies have shown that a more positive outlook and daily gratitude practice actually improve physical health. A positive mindset can boost the immune system and lower stress, which impacts hormone balance and fertility health.
The Mind-Body Link is Backed by Science
Physical health and your mind are like a two-way street. One impacts the other and vice versa — it’s all connected, and we know this because it’s proven by science.
Research shows that practicing gratitude can reduce mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety; lower risk for disease; and increase serotonin.
A famous study called the “milkshake experiment” measured the hormone ghrelin which at high levels tells your body you are hungry. On two separate occasions, participants consumed a 380-calorie milkshake and were told that it was either a 620-calorie "indulgent" shake or a 140-calorie "sensible" shake. Ghrelin was measured via intravenous blood samples at 3-time points: baseline (20 min), anticipatory (60 min), and post-consumption (90 min).
The results showed a steep 3x decline in ghrelin after consuming the “indulgent” shake vs the “sensible” shake. It was the exact same milkshake. Participants’ bodies reacted to the belief regarding what they had consumed rather than the actual nutritional value of the food!
Ghrelin is a hormone. Guess what else is ruled by hormones? Fertility (and so many other bodily functions).
If our mindsets are indeed influencing our physiology — as great minds (like Albert Einstein) have been explaining for centuries and science is beginning to show — it’s important to practice intentionality in our thoughts and beliefs.
How Stress Blocks Fertility
Our bodies are very smart. The body knows when we are under constant stress, and when the mind is stressed, it’s reflected in the body where creating another life becomes not so high on the body’s priority list. Makes sense right?
Several studies have found links between levels of day-to-day stress and lowered chances of pregnancy. For example, women whose saliva had high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that marks stress, took 29% longer to get pregnant compared to those who had less.
Another study reports that among women who had trouble conceiving, those who received cognitive behavioral therapy were almost twice as likely to end up pregnant as those who didn’t.
Today, researchers widely accept that stress and fertility are connected.
“We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation,” says Sarah Berga, MD, an infertility specialist, and vice chair of women’s health at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Manifesting for Fertility Health
Stress is inevitably going to be part of our lives on the daily. Having a strong mindfulness practice is one of the best ways to manage stress. With the right shifts, we can make our dreams turn into reality.
Studies have shown that when you practice mindfulness over a period of time, it actually creates observable, measurable changes in the brain. The critical point is that we have the capacity to actually shape our brain, but that it happens with regular practice, like an athlete training for a race.
One study found that those with a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset, as opposed to a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset, had fewer psychological stress responses like anxiety, depression, and anger.
There is never a more important time to be intentional about mindset than when you’re preparing yourself and your surrounding life for a baby. This is because you are not just making a baby — you are creating a life.
There is never a more important time to be intentional about mindset than when you’re preparing yourself and your surrounding life for a baby.
Manifesting — the practice of thinking aspirational thoughts with the purpose of making them real — is incredibly important as you embark on the journey to build a family. Manifesting will help you stay connected with your partner (and yourself) on the big picture items, get clear on your own heart’s desires, and create a practice of gratitude, dreams, and loving thoughts that will benefit your mental well-being during this crucial time of creating baby.
Believing yourself to be capable of conceiving and carrying a baby is a big part of the conception journey. The goal is to feel confident and empowered on your quest to fertility and pregnancy, even when the road gets rough.
A simple daily gratitude practice is one way to boost your beliefs. The practice can be journaling 5 things daily, saying them out loud, or simply thinking of 3 things you currently have in your life that you are thankful for as you brush your teeth. However you do it, a gratitude practice can greatly influence your mindset and hence your body’s well-being during fertility and beyond.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Remember to enjoy and honor your body and your mind. Find joy in your journey through gratitude. Your mind and body are linked and the health of one is reflected in the other. It is just as important to nurture and invest in your mental well-being as it is to invest in your physical well-being.