Trying to get pregnant or staying pregnant can be very stressful and emotional. Often, negative emotions can have a real impact on the body. At Conceptions, we understand that the mind and body are connected during care-both influence your chance of treatment success. We believe that stress reduction techniques like yoga and acupuncture can help optimize your chance of success with fertility treatments like IUI and IVF.
We sat down with Natalia Grob MD, FACOG from Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado to talk about how yoga and other treatments can help patients just like you.
Where do treatments like yoga, acupuncture, seeing a nutritionist, or even emotional support fit into your overall care paradigm?
Natalia Grob MD: The majority of patients in an infertility clinic have underlying anxiety and depression, even before starting fertility treatments. I try and talk to my patients about the importance of really supporting ourselves, being the healthiest versions of ourselves, in order to optimize our chances of success with fertility treatments. I like to remind my patients, ‘what are you doing for stress reduction?’ Whatever you want to do to optimize stress relief is worth investing in now. Stress reduction techniques include yoga, meditation, therapy, and medications. At Conceptions, we think it’s worth investing in your overall health even before things get stressful.
Specifically with yoga, what percent of patients engage with yoga as a stress relieving tool?
In general, more of my patients will see an acupuncturist. Yoga is more self-motivated as there are few fertility-focused yoga programs available. Typically, patients who do yoga during fertility treatments have experience with yoga.
They have often seen the benefits of the practice themselves and are comfortable adapting their practice as their body changes with fertility treatments. A big reason why I think many people don’t continue yoga for fertility is during fertility treatments- “Will this twist cause my treatment to fail?” The quick answer is “No”. In yoga, we are in tune with our bodies and what it is telling us. If you are uncomfortable or in pain, stop.
Yoga is certainly feasible for someone who’s pregnant, but is there something special patients trying to get pregnant should know?
During early pregnancy or when they’re trying to conceive, most yoga is safe. I counsel patients to avoid hot yoga or Bikram yoga.
Even goat yoga? My friends actually did that, and the pictures are great! With goat yoga, it muddles the water because of infectious diseases you can get from a goat, but, other than that….[laughs]. In general, most yoga is safe for fertility and pregnant patients. Modifications needed for pregnancy happen after 20 weeks of pregnancy when you can become short of breath because you’re lying flat on your back or you have more restrictions to your movement because of your belly size.
Let’s talk a little bit about acupuncture. I know there’s been some data on acupuncture, are there any studies, research, or data that you feel are supportive of the use of acupuncture in IVF?
It’s hard because anytime you’re studying non-western medicine, with the tools of western medicine, we don’t speak the same language, but there’s been a couple of well-designed studies that show at the very least an incremental benefit. I think there’s enough, and I hesitate to use the word data- evidence there that it is beneficial during fertility treatments, meaning that it is better to not be super stressed out during fertility treatments.
Whether you do that with yoga, meditation, or acupuncture, it doesn’t matter to me, I don’t think there’s enough data to suggest one is better than the other. It depends on each individual person.
And as a part of an IVF cycle, where are Conception’s patients using something like acupuncture? Is it something pre-retrieval? Post retrieval?
A lot of the time, patients are using acupuncture before embryo transfer. There are some patients that choose to do acupuncture during ovarian stimulation, but it ends up being a lot of appointments because they’re already coming to us for blood tests and ultrasounds every other day, and then adding acupuncture on top of that, it’s hard to sustain.
Conceptions have consistently had reported success rates that are at or above the national average. When I look around the nation at the top performing centers, to a large degree have embraced treatments and services like acupuncture, yoga, or meditation. Do you think there’s a connection?
I do. I think that the healthier and happier you are during your transfer, the more likely you’ll be successful with embryo transfer, but that’s true with any fertility treatment. There’s data that looks at embryo transfer for women who feel confident that they’ll get pregnant have a higher pregnancy rate than people who don’t think they’ll get pregnant. So as much as we like to believe in science, there’s an element of mind over matter that we can’t quantify in medicine.
There’s a connection between a healthy diet and a healthy level of fertility, isn’t that, right?
Correct. The only real diet that is supported by evidence is the Mediterranean diet, eating mostly fruits and vegetables, minimizing meat intake, and eating whole grains. I use a similar approach saying to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, eat whole foods, and avoid processed foods. That’s beneficial as well. I think it’s important for patients to know about choices, and the reason that I’m not telling them to do acupuncture is that it’s really up to them. Some people are afraid of needles, and it would be horrible to force them to do so.
So, I think the more choices patients know they have in terms of stress reduction, the more empowered they are that they are optimizing the chances of their success. And on a personal level, my journey with yoga has been really empowering and uplifting. I think it’s important for mind and body connection.
Is there a favorite place for a yoga session for you?
Definitely. My favorite place is Red Rocks or somewhere off a trail while I’m backpacking. At Red Rocks, it’s typically an hour-long class early in the morning. It’s amazing in the summer because you can actually see the sun rising. It’s such an awesome, spiritual experience. It’s also cool to do yoga with hundreds of people!
Since joining the Conceptions team in 2017, Dr. Grob has made it her priority to be approachable, down-to-earth, and fully transparent with her patients. She and her entire care team put patient care above all they do. They know that when a patient walks through their doors that it’s all about making the fertility journey the best possible experience for that patient and all subsequent patients.
To have a conversation with Dr. Grob visit https://www.conceptionsrepro.com/New-Patient-Appointment-Form/ today!