INTERVIEWEE - Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav (MD.DGO.FRCOG)
Director of Conceive Gynaecology & Fertility Hospital
Yoga to Treat Infertility
Inability to conceive has a way of leaving a couple completely powerless and frustrated. The stress alone leads to depression and anger at times scaring one of the most valuable relationship. Research states that IVF patients are often diagnosed with anxiety or depression, or both, during their very first consultation. Scientific evidence also suggests that stress reduction induces better fertility conditions. Chronic psychological stress may change how our bodies regulate hormones, which can cause issues with ovulation, egg fertilization, implantations and other reproductive impairments. It is estimated that as many as 10% of infertile couples are impacted by male sexual dysfunction. According to a recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, women with high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and alpha-amylase (an enzyme circulating within our bodies when we are under stress) in their saliva have shown a reduced fertility rate of about 12% lower with each cycle than women with lower levels of stress indicators. Levels of adrenaline (another stress hormone) have also been found to be higher in women with unexplained fertility problems as these hormones may constrict blood flow to the uterus.
There have been studies that suggests that frequent yoga practitioners have higher levels of Gamma-aminobutryic Acid (GABA) than those who don’t practice at all. GABA is a mood regulator and an irregular GABA puts one at risk of suffering from anxiety and depression.
Being a physician, I was keen to see benefits of yoga. I attended a Hatha yoga session with my wife who is an avid ‘yoga lover’. I had heard from some of my patients that Hatha yoga is known to have calm and mindful results for women trying to conceive.
During the class, I observed several pros in the asanas (positions) that the women were encouraged to practice. The most noteworthy were that they were gentle on the joints while stretching and toning the body. Regular practice would loosen connective tissues and relax tight muscles. This kind of yoga focuses on the lower back (sacral plexus), hips, groin area and pelvis to aid better gynecological function. The theory behind it is to encourage blood flow to these areas thereby stimulating glands in the reproductive areas as well as releasing muscle tension. Deep breathing worked wonders in melting away daily stress.
The asanas that are hypothesized to aid conception by restoring hormonal balance included (supported,Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana(supported bridge pose). The Butterfly or Bound-Angle pose was also practiced with the theory that it relieves tension and realigns the pelvis. Pelvic floor misalignment can impede pregnancy, as can tight hips or a scooped tailbone. Any type of yoga that focuses on alignment can help promote apana vayu - the downward motion of energy that massages and prepares the uteruses for pregnancy. Seated poses such as Baddha Konasana and Upavistha Konasana seemed promising in terms of softening the belly, calming agitation, increasing circulation in the pelvic area, regulating menstrual flow, and stimulating the ovaries.
Just an hour of yoga had turned me into an advocate. Whilst there isn’t any evidence-based research to state whether it does or doesn’t boost fertility I certainly could see the benefits of it to a couple receiving infertility treatment. Along with being stressful, quite often physicians overlook how isolating infertility can be! The feeling of being alone and questioning, “why me?” can have crippling effects on self-esteem and morale.
It is not uncommon for marriages to fall apart in the face of infertility. Many of my patients have further stated that they feel inadequate or as though they have failed. The ones who are unfortunate enough to suffer a miscarriage quite commonly feel their bodies have failed them and the result is often anger, resentment, guilt and discontent being directed at themselves. Yoga for fertility helps these people overcome such emotions and reconnect with each other and accept their bodies more gracefully. The calming influence of the deep breathing infuses optimism and positivity back into the being helping them heal their wounds and push past the pain. This sort of healthy coping mechanism is extremely important to the whole process.
I encourage my patients to incorporate yoga into their lifestyle. Not only does it promote well-being and self-healing, but it helps in preventing weight gain from the artificially injected hormones.
About Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav
Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav completed his medical studies from Christian Medical College Vellore, India in 1979 and proceeded to the UK where he was trained in Operative Hysteroscopy & Operative Laparoscopy at the Royal Free Hospital, London. At the completion of his training in 1989, he was appointed as a Research Fellow & Gynecologist, at Humana Hospital Wellington, London. In 1991, he arrived in Dubai at the invitation of Government of Dubai to be part of a team of specialists tasked with establishing U.A.E's first ever Fertility Unit - Dubai Gynecology and Fertility Centre (DGFC) where he held the position of Deputy Director for the next 13 years. He currently heads Conceive a Gynecology & Fertility Hospital in Sharjah that was set up in 2004 with a Dubai branch founded in 2015.
Expert tips on oral care
Positive Psychology can protect against depression in children