Posted Under Health & Healing

When Our Fight-or-Flight Response Hinders Our Fertility

Pregnant Avocado

One of the most frustrating things to encounter as a woman trying to get pregnant is getting a diagnosis of "unexplained infertility." You're at a loss, your doctors are at a loss, and the prognosis seems bleak. Many of my holistic fertility clients tell me that they wish they had a "legitimate" physical condition because then at least they'd know with what they were dealing.

My work is based on the idea that for every physical condition, there is a mental/emotional cause. Once that emotional cause is addressed, the physical issue doesn't need to be there anymore. This theory has been explored for years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, as well as by practitioners like Louise Hay, Dr. Lissa Rankin, and Edgar Cayce. When applied to fertility, I've helped clients move through PCOS, endometriosis, low egg count, thyroid issues, and male component infertility, among others.

Now, you might not think of unexplained infertility as a physical ailment like PCOS or endometriosis, but it is technically affecting the physical body in that our physical body is not performing the way we want it to. So to find the mental/emotional cause, we actually want to first look at the science of why it's likely happening.

Most of us have no doubt heard of the fight-or-flight response. This response (FOF for the remainder of this article) is activated in two main areas of the body: in the adrenal glands and in the amygdalae of the brain. It's aptly named in that it's an automatic response that prepares us to fight a threat or run in the other direction. This was especially useful in our cave people days when large animals with big teeth would chase us. It still has its uses today. Our brain (ego) really means well. It wants to keep us alive. But anytime we decide to try something new, something out of the box, or something the brain doesn't know we will survive, our FOF response is triggered. Granted, there aren't any sabre-toothed tigers left, and most of us don't encounter near-death experiences on a regular basis, but to your brain we might as well be encountering both.

Physically, when FOF is triggered, all of your energy and strength go to your heart, your brain, your lungs, and your legs (in case you need to run). You don't need your reproductive system when trying to get away from a predator, so the reproductive system slows down/shuts down. As an example: if giraffes in the savannah are in the middle of labor, but they sense a lion, all physical symptoms of labor stop and will not start again until the giraffe is safe. Even if your FOF is triggered on a low-grade level for a long time, it is exhausting your body and your energy. Most times it is so subtle we don't even realize that it's being triggered. In this day and age, it's go-go-go all the time and we don't realize that our body is freaking out. We don't feel safe in some area of our life, and until we uncover and address the issue, it will persist.

If you are dealing with unexplained infertility and tests show that nothing is wrong, you're eating well, you're exercising, you're taking prenatal vitamins, and perhaps praying to whoever is in charge to fix the situation, and it simply isn't "working," then maybe taking a look at various areas of your life will help. It's important of course to exercise and eat as cleanly as possible, but remember that those who are malnourished or addicted to drugs can get pregnant, so it's really not because you didn't have enough kale, or because you had that cup of coffee. It's really more about where your thoughts are. According to the Law of Psychophysical Response: for every stressful thought you have, there's a stressful reaction in your body. The brain doesn't care if the threat is real, or if it's happening now. It feels real, and so the reaction is created in the body unbeknownst to us. Fortunately for us, the reverse is also true: for every positive thought, there is a positive response in the body. So taking out external stressors is important, as well as learning to change your thought processes to more positive ones so that the body remains calm and in optimum baby-baking mode.

Take an inventory of various aspects of your life and see where you're not feeling safe, don't have enough time, or aren't fulfilled. Below is the number one (out of fifteen) common reason that our FOF is triggered.

WORK: This is perhaps the most common reason that your FOF will be triggered, especially if you're of the Type-A persuasion. And it can manifest in a few different ways. While most people think their job is stressful, I'm mainly talking about teachers, nurses, caregivers, and CEOs—those responsible for groups or teams of people. You get there early, stay late, and give it your all. You're great at your job.

But, here's the problem: when you're someone (such as a teacher, nurse, caregiver, or beingthe head of a team in a corporate setting) responsible for the health and wellbeing of a lot of people, your time and energy are maxed out. So while you're thinking, "I want to have a baby," your brain already feels as though it's taking care of way too many people and says, "Why would we add another responsibility to our plate?" It literally can't handle taking care of another human, and that can put the kibosh on the lady parts. Though it may seem like only low-grade stress to you, it isn't to your body. This continual stress pattern, over a long time, is exhausting. Again, not everyone in these careers has fertility issues, but 95% of my clients are in these fields. There's an undeniable correlation.

So, what can we do about it?

You might say, "Okay, great, but I can't quit my job right now," or, "I love my job. Am I screwed?"

Of course not.

Are you the get-there-early-and-leave-late, give-it-your-all type? While that's admirable, and will garner you perks at work, the push-to-the-limit attitude could actually be getting in the way of conception. Your great work ethic is awesome but, unfortunately, it can mean you're taking care of everyone else's needs before your own. So your lovely brain, which wants to keep you alive, says, "Um, we're already stretched way too thin and not taking care of ourselves as it is. And you want to add something to our plate? Are you insane?!" I'm certainly not advocating that you become a sloth and only move for food and sex, but we do want to look at ways you can slowly start conserving more energy. When your brain feels that you have more space in your life, the fight or flight isn't triggered as often and it will feel that a baby is a plausible venture.

Even though you, as an evolved human, want the baby and see all the positives, you are dealing with a primal, involuntary reaction in the brain that you cannot fool. So our initial job is to create an environment where your brain feels safe to start this process.

Consider it food for thought that when most of my clients come to me for fertility, they also end up changing their career in some capacity. So I invite you to inquire in a journal entry if you're in the career you feel you're meant to be in, or one you feel you're obligated to be in. More and more I'm seeing these two areas tied together and sometimes it can be the reason the baby hasn't shown up yet. You're supposed to get a handle on that first.

When we want to have a baby so badly, we tend to skip over the areas where we need to do some work or make adjustments. But that work, ladies, is what helps you move toward the baby. These roadblocks being presented to you are not to be jumped over or gone around. You must move through them. They are likely a big part of why your pregnancy hasn't happened yet. In your career you need confidence, drive, preparedness, and the feeling of being capable.

More often than not, my clients tend to be in a job that is just that … a job. It's a paycheck, or it gives them professional accolades, but it doesn't feed their soul. I'll ask them, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I've only had one person answer that it was what they were currently doing. On the surface that might not seem important. But I'm finding that we are being called to step into our purpose versus simply having a career. When we are not in that purpose—the reason we are on the planet this time around—other things that we really want can be delayed. That delay is not your body failing you; it is your body trying to give you time to find your purpose before you can add another aspect to your life.

I have my clients explore what they'd love to do for a living if their "stories" about why they couldn't do it didn't factor in. I joke that if they want to be a mime in a park, we'll find a way to make it happen. But seriously, if you're harboring a super creative person buried under an overworked CPA, it could be a problem. There's nothing wrong with being a CPA if that's your purpose, but if your soul's longing isn't being fed, it can manifest in your body. When I'm reading people, the sacral chakra, located at your lower abdomen, represents creativity, relationships, and children. Your ovaries and uterus quite literally represent the point of creation. So if you are in a job that's not feeding your soul, not feeding your creativity, that chakra can be closed. That means the "creating children" part shuts down as well. I'm not saying quit your job and draw landscapes on the sidewalk with chalk; but, finding a way to feed your soul, whether it's with something obviously creative (painting, drawing, dancing, photography) or something that just feeds your passion (getting certified as a yoga teacher, making organic bath products, or flipping houses), is a key component in how fast you move forward. Stepping out of the idea of being obligated to be in a job and into what were you put on the planet to do is so important.

The mistake a lot of women make is thinking, "When I get pregnant I'll cut back." But the overload could be the very thing preventing you from getting pregnant, so take that action now. If your schedule is maxed out, you must find a way to create space so that your brain can feel like there's room for this baby to come in.

When we want a baby it's hard to step back from the fear, but it is necessary to move yourself forward. When you're in a state of fear or stress, you FOF is triggered. You have much more power on this journey than you realize. Finding ways to nourish yourself and create space in your life will go a long way to shifting your energy.

Yes, the fight-or-flight response is automatic. We can't stop it from being triggered entirely, which is actually a good thing; but, you can find ways around it. By changing your thought process and implementing new patterns, you can bring your body out of FOF. Once we do that, the reproductive system can resume function, and then you can be on your way to your little munchkin.

About A'ndrea Reiter

A’ndrea Reiter (Brooklyn, NY) is a certified Reiki master and intuitive fertility coach specializing in a mind-body approach to fertility. She uses a combination of reiki, intuition and mindset coaching to move women ...

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