Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fertility and the Mind-Body: a Review of Circle+Bloom™’s Innovative Fertility Program

When I was trying to conceive, not only did I put myself on a strict fertility friendly diet, I also employed a number of mind-body techniques to reduce stress, promote healing and encourage success. Specifically, I did yoga for fertility three times a week, meditation or guided relaxation for 20 minutes every day, and ten-minute visualizations twice a day.

Within four months, against the odds, I got pregnant and later delivered a healthy baby.

It is well-understood, and scientifically proven, that the state of our minds and emotions affects our physical health, sometimes dramatically, and that mind-body techniques—therapies such as mediation and guided imagery, which focus on the interaction between mind and body—can make a huge difference.

Here’s just one example: Dr. Alice Domar conducted a Harvard study which demonstrated that 55% of the infertile women who participated in her ten-week mind-body program conceived within 6 months afterwards—and these women had been trying for years!

So I feel it’s important to participate in some form of mind-body work or healthy relaxation while trying to conceive, and Circle+Bloom™’s innovative fertility program could provide the perfect solution.

Their program wasn’t around while I was trying to get pregnant, otherwise I would have snatched it right up! Their convenient, 6-CD set (or downloadable equivalent) contains twenty-eight 15-minute audio sessions to be listened to daily over the course of one monthly cycle, averaged to 28 days. Each daily session uses a combination of soft, calming music, words and guided imagery that, according to their website, is “designed to help your body manage stress and understand what it needs to do to get ready for conception.”

Each 15-minute session is organized roughly into three parts: (1) full-body relaxation, (2) physical visualizations, or guided imagery, of what your body should be accomplishing on that day of your cycle; and (3) visualization exercises to strengthen your emotional state or optimistic feelings.

So here is why I just love this program, think it’s brilliant.

First, Circle+Bloom™ spends the entire first half of that 15 minute session putting you into a deeply relaxed state, and I mean DEEP. I’ve used guided relaxation CD’s before, and have not felt as deeply relaxed. You’re listening and you think you’re totally relaxed, and then the soothe, calming voice guides you even deeper.

To accomplish this, Circle+Bloom™ uses progressive body scan techniques, along with having you imagine, for example, a relaxing, vibrating energy field, or a heavy blanket securing you, or your sinking into a warm bath.

For this benefit alone, I’d buy the CD set. Eliciting what Dr. Alice Domar, author of Conquering Infertility, calls the relaxation response significantly helps us manage overall stress, something critical while trying to conceive. Once you come out of the session, you tend to stay calm for a while. Getting deeply relaxed in the first half of the session has another benefit: it makes you more open and “suggestible” to the guided imagery portion that follows, making the effect of visualization even stronger for you.

Second, Circle+Bloom™ uses physical visualizations that follow your monthly cycle, meaning on certain days you’ll be visualizing what your hypothalamus and pituitary glands are doing, and how they’re communicating with your ovaries, and later in your cycle, you’ll be imagining your “ball of new life energy” burrowing into the cushy lining of your uterus. Beautifully, softly.

I know of no other mind-body program that follows your cycle like that! According to their website, they “harness the incredible power of the mind to help ovulation, fertilization and ultimately implantation and pregnancy.”

At this point you may be thinking, how can this be? How does it work? Well, let me diverge a moment to explain.

Images in our minds have a powerful effect over our thoughts and emotions which in turn can have a physiological effect on our bodies. On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil describes it like this: “[Guided imagery] takes advantage of the connection between the visual brain and the involuntary nervous system. When this portion of the brain (the visual cortex at the back of the head) is activated, without receiving direct input from the eyes, it can influence physical and emotional states. This, in turn, can help elicit physiologic changes in the body, including therapeutic goals.”

In their brochure, Circle+Bloom™ says, “Scientific research has proven [visualization techniques] can lead to physical changes in the body and heal life-threatening diseases such as cancer or heart disease.”

In the audio introduction, Circle+Bloom™ founder Joanne Verkuilen tells the story of a small boy who imagined “shooting” his cancer away, and after a period of time (months?) he felt it was gone, and turns out, it really was! This story comes from Love, Medicine and Miracles, by Bernie Siegel, MD, who has also endorsed Circle+Bloom™’s program.

As I always say, we have more power than we think we do to make a difference in our health!

I really enjoyed some of the other visualizations too, such as the one around ovulation time in which I looked into my partner’s eyes. This gave me such a rush of love and attraction for my husband—who was nowhere in the room, by the way—because in our day to day lives, honestly, we never look into each other’s eyes.

I also like the image, around Day 5 or 6, of writing negative thoughts on a paper and tossing them into the fire.

Finally, the third reason I really liked this program is that it only took 15 minutes a day! This is a very small commitment considering the lasting effects you get back.

Founder and co-CEO of Circle+Bloom™, Joanne Verkuilen, originally created this program to help a friend who was struggling to conceive. She herself had been diagnosed with PCOS and had difficulty conceiving. Her sister, Susan Cooke, co-CEO, later joined Circle+Bloom™ on their mission to help others and make a difference.

Not only is their program endorsed by Bernie Siegel, MD, but their website is filled with numerous success stories! In addition to a natural cycle plan, Circle+Bloom™ also has a program specifically designed for those going through IVF. To learn more, visit the following links:

Free trial (to get a taste):
Programs they have:
Program Benefits and Features:

Additional Resources:
Dr. Weil's Guided Imagery
Healing Visualizations (a book I used)