Trying to have a baby can be one of the most challenging experiences a woman or a couple can go through. The extreme emotional pain of not conceiving can cause even more chronic stress of which we already have more than enough in our hectic city life in Singapore, which can further impact your physical and mental health.
Trying to conceive (and keeping the pregnancy) can be an emotional roller coaster which can easily be a strain on even the healthiest of relationships. It can be excruciatingly painful to see your girlfriends and colleagues fall pregnant one after the other without trying too hard, yet you don’t seem to be able to get pregnant. Very often there is anger, frustration, and the sensation of betrayal by the body. Many men still don’t want to even talk about or test their sperm quality because of shame or stigma.
I have seen many times that women carry a lot of emotional “baggage” in the uterus. The origin can f.ex. be from the way we were brought up, i.e. learned gender roles in our family, religious community or society. Most women would have made experiences of not being respected as a woman at some point in their life – whether it’s unpleasant stares on the street, unfair treatment at work or gender inequality in the family. I have seen this across cultures, but it’s even more predominant in very traditional cultures or conservative families.
Not only does the image of the role of a woman get transferred to her sons and daughters, but also trauma can be passed from one generation to another (transgenerational trauma). In short, a woman does not need to have experienced sexual harassment, violence or abuse herself in order to have trauma in her uterus. This is an important factor if we consider the environment our mothers and grandmothers lived in, and what they may have gone through.
As women we store the pain and suffering of our maternal ancestors in our body: When your grandmother was pregnant with your mother, your mother’s eggs were already formed. This means the egg (and all its information) of which you were made was already formed when your mother was developing in your grandmother’s womb. In pre- and perinatal psychology we already know that all her emotions and thoughts were already imprinted on a cellular level in the developing fetus.
I mention the role of a woman and trauma here because it can play such a huge role in your own fertility journey. Not being able to conceive forces you to face your feminine side as well as those old conflicts with the feminine. You may chose to ignore them until you feel it is time to face them. Very often these conflicts are across generations, which might be seen through similar gynaecological problems across generations. Often it is not just a problem with getting pregnant, but there might be other underlying gynae issues such as difficult menses, myoma, fibroids, endometrisos or PCOS.
In many indigenous cultures, the uterus is the energetic centre of a woman. It is a sacred space of power, strength, and creation as a woman has the ability to give and take life. From an energetic point of view, we used to live in a matriarchal society, which was changed to a patriarchal society with the introduction of the main religions we still have today. The loss of femine power has changed the identity of many women, making them believe that women are weak and not as capable as a man. Having lost the balance of their femine power may play a role in the health of a woman, particularly in fertility and gynae health. The objective should be neither a dominating male or female energy, but a beautiful harmony of both energies, similar to the yin and yang sign.
With regards to fertility, in roughly 50% of cases, there is a problem with the man’s sperm quality. Poor diet, lack of sleep, and exercise or too much stress can have an impact on the sperm quality – apart from carrying a mobile phone in the front pocket of the pants or a laptop on his lap. Other health conditions may require treatment by a specialist. Therefore it is highly recommended your partner sees a urologist as some possible problems may be solved relatively easily. Scientific studies suggest that plastic in our food mimics the female sex hormon estrogen and may be responsible for the reduction of sperm count. Switching to water from glass instead of plastic bottles is not just better for the environment, but may also have a positive impact on your reproductive health.
Very often there is also a lack of knowledge about the woman’s menstrual cycle and her fertile days. If her cycle is 30 days or of irregular length, there is no point to plan intercourse for day 12, as ovulation is likely to occur on another day. If you are not aware of the signs your body will show you to indicate the fertile days you might think there is a problem with your fertility when it’s just wrong timing!
Frequent travel for work can require logistic planning to ensure the correct timing, which can lead to even more stress for both partners. Try focusing on the positive aspects to make the planning light and fun. Stress at work or lack of sleep can further change your cycle which makes it so important to be able to read your body’s fertility signs. Hormonal test kits are not always accurate. They may also make you psychologically depend on them which again weakens the connection with your own body.
The stress hormone cortisol may overpower the delicate female sex hormones, making it even more difficult to conceive. Therefore, the reduction of stress and focus on relaxation are crucial for both getting pregnant and keeping a pregnancy.
If it has been a particularly stressful month you might ovulate later than usual. Usually, the length of the luteal phase (the second phase of the menstrual cycle, i.e. from ovulation to the next menstruation) stays the same, meaning what changes is the length of the follicular phase (the time from menstruation until ovulation). If you don’t know how to read your body’s signs you could easily waste a few months of lost opportunities that way.
Therefore, extensive charting which includes temperature, the texture and look of the cervical fluids, as well as the position, openness, and texture of the cervix (yes, you can touch it without doing any stunts) can provide an amazing amount of data to work with.
Discussing your cycle with your partner and involving him can strengthen your relationship and may help to take out some of the stress and pressure.
If a woman has previoulsy lost or aborted a pregnancy, there can still be the sensation of guilt and loss in the uterus. Working on releasing these emotions connected with what may have happened a long time ago may help to heal some old wounds. Maybe the spirit of the baby that you didn’t have is still around and you need closure first before you can move on and conceive again.
In the case of sexual abuse, pregnancy can bring up a lot of old fears and uncomfortable sensations that may have been suppressed for a while. It is not necessary to remember abuse in order to resolve it. Sometimes, it may be better to not remember anything, but finding peace can mean a significant step in your fertility journey.
If a woman has already suffered a lot from her recent fertility journey full of unfulfilled hopes, potentially lost pregnancies, and side effects from fertility treatments, it might sometimes be better to just take a break from everything and simply enjoy your sexuality for a while before you try again or a different approach.
A woman who is not able to conceive naturally or keep a pregnancy often experiences a loss of trust in her body. This could mean that a vicious cycle is being formed. A lack of trust in the woman’s body might also lead to greater fears of the birth compared to pregnancies achieved naturally. It is therefore important to work on underlying emotional, old “baggage” to not pass on your own issues to your baby to prevent your future offspring from experiencing the same issues, but also to have a higher chance for a natural birth if this is what you desire. Having a doula for your birth may help to reduce fear, keeps you focused on the process and progress of giving birth to you child, and may give you options to naturally reduce stress and pain.
A planned caesarean birth without medical indication might be an easy way out from facing old, limiting beliefs and fears, but may also lead to higher rates in post-natal depression and lower rates in breastfeeding as the medications giving during an assisted (i.e. non-natural, vaginal birth) birth may reduce the production of oxytocin (also called the love and bonding hormone) during birth which might already be impacted by the fear and stress the woman might be experiencing. Should a caesarean or assisted birth be necessary, there will be other options to help you counter those effects, but I will not mention them here. Intention plays a big role, and psychologically it makes a difference if you do something out of fear or with confidence, knowing you have done what you could, and just surrender to the natural flow of events.
As women, we often compare our body and attractiveness with the women around us. We tend to scrutinize ourselves how good and successful we are as wives, lovers, mothers or career women. The image we have of ourselves is often way more negative than those around us have of us. Abolishing negative self-talk and developing a better relationship with yourself can be a significant step in your journey to heal physically and emotionally.
Feeling good, beautiful, and strong as a woman can play a huge role in how you perceive your body. Foster your feminine side and maybe do some soul searching what it means to you to be a woman. What stereotypes or images about being a woman do you have? How is the relationship to your own mother? Very often there is a lot of pain and suffering which wants to be looked at and resolved. This might not get every woman pregnant, but it may help you let go of some of the pain and feel more at ease with the situation. It can be a good opportunity to get to know yourself better and make peace with whatever happened.
If you would like to be supported in your fertility journey in an holistic manner or in resolving old trauma to feel at peace where you are now in your life, feel free to reach out to me!
“Frauenheilkraft” by Sonia Emilia Rainbow
“Flower Power Zyklus in Balance” by gynecologist Anja Maria Engerling
“Taking charge of your fertility” by Toni Weschler
Association for Pre-and Perinatal Psychology
31 Dec 2019