I first started experimenting with visualization years before I thought about trying to become pregnant.
I was training for a marathon that was on the Pacific coast and the course was especially hilly. I live in Chicago which is a beautiful—completely flat—city. The hills of the marathon course terrified me. I came across an article in a running magazine about athletes using visualization as a way to mentally prepare for a race. It seemed like a quick, low-stress, low-effort method worth adding to my program.
I studied the course map and imagined the entire course every day while I was training. I started picturing myself overcoming each hill. I would picture my legs being strong, my body leaning into the hill, my breath going in and out evenly. I imagined specifically what I might be hearing, seeing, and smelling at the same time.
And it worked! The hills fell away from my shoes with relative ease and that marathon remains one of the best experiences of my life.
I started visualizing what I wanted the medication to do before and after each injection. Come retrieval time, I pictured healthy, full follicles with ripe eggs.I started visualizing what I wanted the medication to do before and after each injection. Come retrieval time, I pictured healthy, full follicles with ripe eggs.
Fast forward to my fertility journey at the crisis point: I was years into the experience and had endured two failed IVF cycles and many months of heartache and disappointment. I was lying on an acupuncturist’s table trying desperately to slow my mind while it raced with the details of my upcoming IVF stimulation cycle and a litany of not-so-positive “what ifs.”
The practice of imagining what I wanted to happen within my body came slowly. It started as a way to calm my mind during acupuncture: I pictured the needles directing energy to my reproductive organs, and guiding blood to flow through and nourish my entire body and help it work more efficiently.
Over the course of the next few weeks, the practice became more frequent. I started visualizing what I wanted the medication to do before and after each injection. Come retrieval time, I pictured healthy, full, follicles with ripe eggs. Before the transfer, I pictured a thick uterine lining that was comfortable and soft—just the place for an embryo to settle into for the long haul. During the “two-week wait,” I pictured the embryo attaching and cells multiplying and growing.
The keys to success for a visualization practice are belief, repetition, and detail.Part prayer and part meditation, the images I pictured in my head were detailed and vivid. Just like with the marathon training, I tried to include every sense where could…imagining textures, movement, and color.
During that round of IVF, our son Ben was conceived. And my visualization practice continued through the pregnancy as I pictured my body adjusting for and supporting this precious little life.
Of course, I don’t know that visualization was “the” part of my fertility plan that made the difference. I also can’t guarantee a positive outcome for anyone who tries this—especially when some people need deeper medical intervention—but it was a helpful, calming, and empowering part of my strategy. It can be a useful tool for you, too.
Now, you may be thinking this is all a bit “woo-woo,” so I’ll share some background.
What is Visualization?
Visualization is the act of using your brain to “see” what you want your body to do. Dr. Clifford Lazarus of The Lazarus Institute and a specialist in health psychology and collaborative psychopharmacology, says: “The mind and the body are different sides of the same coin and they intersect most strongly at the level of imagination.”
Said another way: where the mind goes, the body will follow.
Visualization can help because when you imagine yourself doing what you want to do, you physiologically create neural patterns in your brain, just as if you had physically performed the action. It is essentially a way for you to direct your body to perform in the ideal way once the time comes.
Benefits of Visualization
Research has shown in some cases that “mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone.”
Studies have shown that mentally “practicing” what you want your body to do can enhance motivation, increase confidence, improve motor performance, elevate the immune system, and increase feelings of empowerment and positivity.
How to Get Started
The keys to success for a visualization practice are belief, repetition, and detail.
1. Belief: If you don’t believe the visualization will have an impact, it probably won’t. Think of it as if someone was handing you a prescription note while also silently mouthing,“this won’t work.” You probably wouldn’t bother to fill the medication.
2. Repetition: Set specific points in your day where you will pause to practice. I loved waking up and visualizing my intentions for the day. If you are going through an IVF cycle, a good time could be when you are taking medication or preparing for a procedure. It can be before a meal or in the shower. Where doesn’t really matter and I found I didn’t need to be completely still, just focused. Studies show that consistent and repeated visualizations have the most impact.
3. Detail: Decide what you wish to focus on and start imagining in as much detail as you can what the perfect scenario looks like. If you need to, do a bit of research so you can picture your internal workings more clearly.
I confess that this is a self-taught practice. I hope, though, that this gives you even more confidence to explore visualization as part of your fertility plan. My experience shows that you don’t need much more to get going than the desire to try.
I’ve created a couple of free guided visualizations that can help you start or continue visualizing your fertility success on my YouTube channel, My Fertility Coach.
Give it a try. At the worst, you spent some downtime thinking about your internal workings in more detail than you ever have. At the best, who knows? Maybe you, too, could find yourself feeling empowered and motivated while your body carries out the perfect scenario that your mind imagines for your fertility journey.
Erin McDaniel is a six-time IVF “survivor” and mom to two boys. As a fertility coach, she helps women improve their fertility process by identifying and reducing stress points, creating balanced fertility plans, and implementing positive mindset strategies. To learn more, visit MyFertiltyCoach.com.
Listen to stories, share your own, and get feedback from the community.