Dear EFT Community,
EFT practitioner, naturopath, and clinical hypnotherapist Julie Phillips-Moore, PhD, of Sydney, Australia, shares highly useful information on the emotional components of infertility, including the role of the stress response and the affects of the stress hormone cortisol on reproductive hormones. She explains how EFT is an invaluable tool for overcoming the stress and anxiety associated with infertility and offers two case studies to illustrate its effectiveness.
By Julie Phillips-Moore, PhD
When one hears the word “infertility,” thoughts often come to mind about physiological problems (e.g. uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome), medical procedures, and IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Little thought, however, is given to the emotional/psychological aspect of this disorder. Fortunately, interest in the mind and its influence on the body is increasing and research in neuroscience has shown that emotions permeate both mind and body and can affect not only our susceptibility to stress, but also many systems of the body including the reproductive system.
Negative thoughts, beliefs, and unresolved negative feelings (such as guilt or shame after a termination or unresolved grief after a miscarriage) can create extreme emotional conflict that affects every cell of the body and can cause or compound reproductive problems.
The mind perceives these negative thoughts and emotions as a threat and the body’s stress responses are activated.
One result of chronic stress is the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which causes increased cortisol production in the adrenal cortex. When excess cortisol is released, it can upset the reproductive system in a number of ways, in both men and women. For example, in women:
Excess cortisol can increase:
• Prolactin secretion, which affects fertility hormone signaling.
• Luteinizing hormone (LH), which has an effect on both ovarian production and oocyte (egg) development and is a factor inherent in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Excess cortisol can decrease:
• Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which prevents ovulation.
• Progesterone, which prevents ovulation and could possibly cause a miscarriage.
• Estrogen, which can result in ovulation suppression and a reduction in the thickening of the uterine lining required for the implantation of fertilized eggs.
• Gonadotropic-releasing hormone (GnRH) drive, which is a common cause of anovulation and amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods).
EFT is an valuable tool for overcoming the stress and anxiety that often accompany infertility. It is especially useful in cases where the patient is constantly reliving the trauma of a miscarriage (in some cases, multiple miscarriages) and/or is avoiding talking about it or actually avoiding (where possible) situations that might cause her to remember the trauma.
IVF is another aspect of infertility that causes extreme stress and creates negative beliefs and fear in some women.
They often have flashbacks of how invasive the procedure was, how scary it was to self-inject, the horrible effects the drugs had on them and the fear of having to do it all over again. EFT can not only take away the intensity of the memory of their IVF experience, but it can also help them cope better with each stage of the next IVF cycle.
The following case studies demonstrate the positive effect of EFT on women suffering the trauma of miscarriage and IVF treatment.
“Melissa” walked into my room looking very pale and downcast. She started to tell me why she had come but couldn’t get past the first syllable of “miscarriage” before she started to sob. I immediately started tapping to take the edge off and, when she was calm, tapped on “This word I can’t say.” Eventually, after a few sequences of tapping, she was able to say the word “miscarriage” without crying.
We then went on to EFT’s Tell the Story Technique and slowly and gently progressed through the story of her miscarriage and the grief she felt. She returned for her second session delighted by the fact that over the weekend she had met her new neighbor, somehow got to talking about the miscarriage she’d had, and was amazed that she could tell her story calmly and without tears.
I haven’t yet seen her for her third session, but am sure that the tapping has helped reduce her stress level and cleared the way for conception and, hopefully, a successful pregnancy.
“Helen” had had a bad experience with her first attempt at IVF treatment and was very fearful of attempting another. She desperately wanted to have a child but the thought of going through another IVF cycle was too overwhelming for her.
She had repeated disturbing images of self-injecting and the process of egg-collecting and embryo transfer, and desperately tried to avoid thinking about them. When something reminded her of her experience, she said that her heart pounded and that she had difficulty breathing. She also had difficulty sleeping.
As she was so fearful and “didn’t want to go there,” I used EFT’s Tearless Trauma Technique with her, beginning with the strongest emotion, which had to do with the self-injecting. I asked her to guess what this emotion would be (on a 0–10 scale) if she were to vividly imagine the incident, but I also asked her not to actually imagine it. She said it was a 10. I then asked her to think of a phrase we could tap on and she decided on “This self-injecting fear.”
We began by tapping on “This self-injecting fear” until the rating came down to a 2. I then asked her to vividly imagine the incident and we tapped on that. She surprisingly came down to a 0 after two rounds.
In the following sessions, we tapped on the remaining fears about the invasive medical procedures of egg-collecting and embryo transfer, plus a few minor ones such as the memories of the clinic and examination room, which had relatively low scores but still had some intensity.
Two months later, she had her second IVF treatment and, within a month, was pregnant.