Marsha Mezger and her husband, Doug, have been trying to have a baby since July 2006.First, Mezger took three rounds of Clomid, a fertility drug, with no success. Then they moved on to in vitro treatments at Mid-Iowa Fertility in Clive. The first two tries resulted in miscarriages; the third time, Mezger didn't get pregnant.Now the West Des Moines couple is trying another round of in vitro. But this time, Mezger - a big believer in integrating Western and Eastern medicine - also took a new class offered at The Family Tree in Des Moines called "Yoga for Fertility."
"I thought, 'Why not? It's not going to hurt,'" said Mezger, 29. "If anything, yoga is going to help me relax."Sandi Hoover, co-owner and instructor at The Family Tree, said she believes this is the first class of its kind in Iowa.The class is open to all women trying to conceive, said Hoover, a registered nurse who has been a yoga instructor since 2001. Some of her students have had medical diagnoses of polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis, both of which can cause infertility.
"For me, personally, yoga has been a source of stress reduction and balance," she said. "And for a lot of people struggling to conceive, there's that underlying stress. The focus (of the class) is clearly going to be inviting that reproductive energy in through a combination of breath, meditation and movement."When you're under constant stress, Hoover said, your body puts out stress hormones that deal more with survival functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. Those hormones also shut down reproduction.
Hoover said new research shows that yoga and other alternative health techniques can serve as antidotes to the harmful effects of stress on the reproductive system.Extreme stress can interfere with a woman's ovulation and reduce the number of eggs, agreed Dr. Don Young, medical director at Mid-Iowa Fertility. For men, stress can negatively affect sexual performance.Young said he has recommended yoga to his patients to relieve stress."As far as any yoga moves improving fertility, there's no evidence to support that at all," he said. "There's no yoga poses that will, say, open up fallopian tubes or improve ovulation."
Young said studies have shown that acupunture may help increase the number of eggs, embryo quality and pregnancy rate for patients undergoing in vitro treatments.Hoover's class includes specific yoga poses that help increase overall health, which will increase the overall likelihood of getting pregnant, she said. They also help improve the total alignment of the body and increase energy and stamina. The moves support the muscles in the reproductive area.
The class also serves as a support group. Topics vary weekly, ranging from letting go of obsessive thoughts to finding holistic help, through group discussion and sharing, Hoover said.Mezger said being surrounded by pregnant co-workers, pregnant women at the mall and new moms pushing strollers made her feel like she was the only one going through this."I left (the class) calm and centered," she said, "and it was certainly a way for me to be proactive in this journey and be productive. It was certainly a release - and more than once. I released buckets of tears right there in the middle of (class)."
The class helped Mezger to be more patient, she said, and to focus on the future."Our time is going to come. Having a baby has not come yet, but it doesn't mean it's never going to come," she said.