In traditional Chinese medicine, there’s an ancient saying that “wherever the mind goes, the qi follows.” Recent studies have also confirmed what the Chinese already knew: there’s a relationship between the mind and the body. Many techniques, including guided imagery, aim to take advantage of this relationship. One area where this relationship may help is in the effort to become pregnant. This article will examine in detail how guided imagery can benefit your chances of getting pregnant and the steps to practicing it.
Guided imagery, or visualization, is a simple, focused relaxation technique that involves using your mind to visualize what you want the body to do. In this technique, individuals intentionally imagine a particular scenario or outcome and immerse themselves fully in it as if it were real.
This technique aims to effect desired changes by directing the body to follow the mind’s will. Guided imagery has been around for centuries in ancient Chinese medicine but is fast gaining prominence in the United States. Aside from the reported benefits of this technique, it is also simple and has few side effects, making it a potentially low-risk, high-reward technique.
Many people believe it is untrue that one can effect changes in the body by focusing the mind, as is claimed in guided imagery. However, some studies have set out to confirm the reported benefits of visualization, and the results have been very encouraging.
For example, researchers from William Beaumont Hospital conducted an 8-week study on patients with interstitial cystitis. In the study, patients had two 25-minute guided imagery sessions daily where they visualized healing of the bladder, pelvic muscle relaxation, and relaxation of the bladder nerves. At the end of the study, patients practicing the visualization technique recorded significantly less pain and symptoms compared to patients who didn’t practice the visualization technique.
Another study on 111 teenagers showed that guided imagery is effective in reducing cortisol levels in the saliva. This translated to less stress. A similar study in 2008 on cortisol levels found that guided imagery interventions could reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence in recovered individuals.
While more studies are required before any definitive claim can be made about guided imagery, current research suggests this technique is a promising field in managing many health conditions.
Delays when trying to get pregnant can be very stressful and upsetting, and women who have difficulty getting pregnant often explore many different methods to rectify the issue. One method to promote conception and fertility in women is guided imagery. To understand why this technique has gained this much popularity for fertility, let us consider how the technique works in the first place.
When visualizing specific outcomes in guided imagery, the brain releases certain chemicals that may induce the following physiological changes: lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate, slower breathing, and lower anxiety and stress levels. Overall, the body’s stress hormone production reduces, and it assumes a more relaxed state. How, then, does this correspond to pregnancy?
The body is less receptive to fertilization if it is in a stressed state. Therefore, relaxation techniques that can relax the body may aid conception. This hypothesis is also supported by a Harvard study that shows relaxation techniques can more than double the chances of successfully becoming pregnant.
However, while guided imagery can aid fertility and conception, it is only a part of the puzzle and should not be treated as the sole therapy for fertility delays. For example, guided imagery could be used in conjunction with IFV procedures to make them more effective.
Having established that guided imagery is potentially beneficial for conception, let us consider the steps to practicing this technique for fertility.
The mind is a key aspect of guided imagery, and it needs to be in the right state to practice the technique. If you do not believe guided imagery would work for fertility, the chances of the technique working are slim. Before starting the technique, you need to have a positive mindset about it and channel your thoughts into the technique working for you. It is your positive mindset itself that helps make the physiological changes that are so useful in this technique.
Find a comfortable environment and position to practice the technique. For most relaxation techniques, you should look for somewhere quiet and a comfortable position either seated or lying down. In the case of guided imagery and fertilization, you can assume a standing position, as long as you’re comfortable and able to fully relax.
Get yourself in the right mindset by utilizing the diaphragm deep breathing technique. This involves focusing on allowing your stomach to expand and contract as you breathe in and out. Ensure you release tension from your shoulders, keeping them stationary. You shouldn’t be hasty when deep breathing and should allow yourself to mindfully “breathe out stress.”
When you are comfortable with your breathing, visualize a scene related to fertility, conception, pregnancy, and children. Ensure the scene is as vivid as possible. It should feel like a daydream. Below are practical examples of scenarios you can imagine to aid fertility.
Get your senses involved in your vivid imagination. What’s the scent your visualized scenario would have? What will be the background noises? Are you touching or feeling anything? Consider all of these senses and let them play into your image. Remember that you want your image to be as real as possible and should not limit your imagination when practicing guided imagery.
Take your time in the image you have visualized. The goal of the technique is to relax the body, which may take a while. When you feel relaxed and satisfied with the session, you should gradually shift your attention back to real life. You can count from five to one; when done counting, go back to your day.
Guided imagery should not be a one-off practice for fertilization. Choose specific points of the day to practice visualization. For even better results, do this when you are hoping to conceive. For instance, if you are having in vitro fertilization, you do your guided imagery session around when preparing for the procedure.
Aside from fertilization, there are other benefits associated with guided imagery. Below are a few of these benefits.
The immediate goal of guided imagery is often to reduce stress and relax the body. Studies have shown that visualization can help reduce chronic stress. This is particularly important considering the medical conditions associated with chronic stress, including Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This condition arises when the body cannot cope with chronic life stressors.
Ordinarily, the body’s in-built stress-coping mechanism is the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. This system consists of six circuits of related organ systems working together to regulate stress in the body. When one of these circuits dysregulates for an extended period, AFS may result.
One of these NEM circuits is the Neuroaffect circuit, which is comprised of the autonomic nervous system, brain, and microbiome. Guided imagery targets the brain and allows for the stimulation of chemicals that can alleviate the neurological and psychological symptoms of stress. Studies found that cortisol, the stress hormone, could also be lowered by the use of guided imagery.
In conditions resulting from chronic stress, like AFS, insomnia is one of the common symptoms observed. However, studies show that guided imagery can improve the quality of sleep. This is likely linked to the stress-relieving properties of this technique.
Here are some of the tips that can enhance the guided imagery experience and improve the chances of success.
Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that can be used to promote fertilization and conception, among other health goals. The technique is simple to perform and comes with few risks. As effective as the technique is, however, note that it should not replace medical attention or other relevant practices necessary for conception.
For more information about using guided imagery to reduce stress or reach health goals, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free, no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
The best position for visualization is simply that in which you are most comfortable. The typical positions are lying, standing, and sitting, either in a chair with both feet on the floor or cross-legged. However, you are free to assume any position, as long as it allows you to fully relax and focus on your guided imagery session.