As busy women, we can often feel rather detached from the pelvic area until we start having symptoms. Any dysfunction or pain in that area will make you pay attention to your body really quickly.
Once you start struggling with things like infertility, pelvic or vaginal pain, cramping, lower back pain, PCOS, or irregular menstrual cycles, you really start to wonder what makes the pelvic area work and you may even think "What is my body trying to tell me?" Craniosacral therapy brings focused attention to the pelvic organs, low back, hips and sacrum and can help to restore balance to these areas by calming the nervous system, reducing restrictions, and improving circulation.
Stress Impacts on Fertility
Craniosacral therapy supports healthy fertility by reducing stress. Stress may directly affect your ability to conceive (1) and the healthy development of your baby. (2) Studies show that being a stressed out mama-to-be can even affect your baby’s childhood development down the road.
High stress during pregnancy can impact your baby’s developing nervous system, cognitive function, microbiome (healthy bacteria) and their future behavior. (2,3) Clearly it's absolutely critical to find ways to diffuse stress and this is where craniosacral therapy comes in.
Craniosacral can help reduce stress levels by supporting your parasympathetic nervous system, specifically the cranium (skull bones) and sacrum (a bone in the low back between your hip bones). As you may already know, the parasympathetic nervous system is what tells your body to calm down and recover from stress. It’s what allows us to rest, digest and - ahem - make babies. This nervous system reset is precisely why craniosacral therapy is such a useful tool for those trying to conceive.
Craniosacral for Stress Reduction and Optimal Fertility
As I mentioned above, stress may impact hormone balance, cycle regularity, ovulation and conception. Ever feel exhausted after a very stressful event? You go from running around like a headless chicken on adrenaline to crashing into your bed. The “crash” is your nervous system forcing you to rest. This is a great mechanism for ensuring that you get adequate rest and recovery, but we don’t want to do this day in/day out for months, years... or a lifetime. This is a recipe for adrenal fatigue.
For optimal fertility, we need to create a low-stress environment for both you and your baby. If you are in a calm state you are sending signals to your ovaries and uterus that the timing is right for conception, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and raising your child in a safe environment.
A lot of people have no idea just how tense they really are until they receive a craniosacral therapy session. Regular treatments act like a workout for your parasympathetic nervous system and with regular sessions your body becomes conditioned to respond to stressors more calmly than before. When you add in techniques like daily deep breathing and gentle stretching or yoga, these fortify your ability to radiate zen-like vibes. With time and consistency, your body begins to crave this relaxation time and it becomes something that you can’t do without. This kind of focused attention and release of tension in the pelvic area can also help women shift away from storing fear and pain in this area and towards feeling more embodied and empowered by their innate ability to create and give birth to life.
Physiological benefits for fertility and pelvic health
In addition to all of the wonderful stress-busting aspects of craniosacral therapy, there are also direct physiological effects. This technique also helps to promote circulation to your pelvic organs and release tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and fascia. Fascia is an intricate web of connective tissue that surrounds all tissues of the body, including pelvic organs. For more about fascia, click here.
Adhesions can form as a result of trauma/injury, chronic tension, repetitive movements, poor posture, surgery such as C-sections, and more. Craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, physical therapy, and massage are all examples of types of hands-on therapy that can reduce these adhesions, which can be particularly troublesome in the pelvic area and may interfere with conception.
A 10-year retrospective study done by Clear Passages Physical Therapy Clinic showed improved fertility in their patients after regular manual therapy to eliminate adhesions. Their patients consisted of 1392 women with infertility due to a variety of causes, including: occluded fallopian tubes, hormonal dysfunction, and endometriosis. Some women were also undergoing IVF concurrently with their physical therapy. They used a whole-body approach, in addition to using manual therapy to release adhesions around the uterus, ovaries, and sacrum. Their results showed that reducing physical blockages around the pelvic area improved fertility rates in their patients. (4)
For more information on craniosacral therapy, click here.
Lynch, C., Sundaram, R., Maisog, J., Sweeney, A., & Louis, G. B. (2014). Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study. Human Reproduction,29(5), 1067-1075. doi:10.1093/humrep/deu032
Scheinost, D., Sinha, R., Cross, S. N., Kwon, S. H., Sze, G., Constable, R. T., & Ment, L. R. (2017). Does prenatal stress alter the developing connectome? Pediatric Research, 81(1-2), 214–226. http://doi.org/10.1038/pr.2016.197. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
Jašarević, E., Howard, C. D., Misic, A. M., Beiting, D. P., & Bale, T. L. (2017). Stress during pregnancy alters temporal and spatial dynamics of the maternal and offspring microbiome in a sex-specific manner. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/srep44182
Rice, A. D., Patterson, K., Wakefield, L. B., Reed, E. D., Breder, K. P., Wurn, B. F., King, C.R., Wurn, L. J. (2015). Ten-year Retrospective Study on the Efficacy of a Manual Physical Therapy to Treat Female Infertility. Alternative therapies in health and medicine,21(2), 32-40. Retrieved January 10, 2018.