Modern women balance more than ever before, but this can sometimes mean that we don't prioritize adequate time or space to tune into our body's needs until symptoms are raging. If you’re struggling with things like infertility, pelvic or vaginal pain, menstrual cramps, lower back pain, PCOS or irregular menstrual cycles it means that it’s time to ask, "What is my body trying to tell me?" Craniosacral therapy can bring focused attention, support and relief to the pelvic area by calming the nervous system, reducing restrictions and improving circulation.
For millennia, women have supported each other through sharing in women’s healing circles, hands-on work and herbal medicine. Unfortunately, in modern times many women lack this community connection and healing support that enables us to heal and thrive. Hands-on craniosacral therapy can be a way for women to receive support, both mentally-emotionally as well physically. Craniosacral therapy delivers focused attention to the pelvis, hips and sacrum and can help restore balance to these areas. Even the very act of placing hands on the area can be healing, since it helps you get out of your head and into your body - this is important.
Craniosacral therapy uses very light placement of hands on areas of your body controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system (cranium and sacrum). While the therapy is focused to these areas, it can also be used to assess for restrictions in other parts of the body like your abdomen, diaphragm, pelvic organs, and joints. This technique is primarily used to assess the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that cushions and protects our brain and spinal cord. The pulse and flow of CSF can become blocked and cause lack of communication between different areas of the nervous system. This is akin to a lane closure on the highway. The road gets smaller, slows down the vehicles, and we can’t get to where we’re going as quickly as before. In severe cases like injury and trauma, there can be a complete shutdown of communication, like a road closure. The goal of craniosacral is to get CSF and energy flowing, moving and communicating again, and to reduce the inflammation and dysfunction that leads to symptoms.
Hormones can be thrown out of balance for many reasons, and one of them is stress. Under stress, the adrenals pump out cortisol and keep our nervous system in “fight or flight” mode. When your brain senses this hypervigilant (threatened) state it diverts attention away from producing sex hormones and more towards cortisol production. Think about our hunter/gatherer ancestors: before we became a more agricultural society settled in one place we were nomads. When food ran out in one area, everyone had to pack up and go to the areas with more abundant food. Times of travel were stressful - groups would head into unknown territory and have to search for food and shelter. We were under constant threat of predators and enemies. We are evolutionarily wired to stay in vigilant, sympathetic mode in times like these, taking the focus away from procreation. Once our ancestors found a new place to settle they likely felt more at ease, cuing the parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to rest, digest, and procreate.
We are not experiencing the same threats as our nomadic ancestors, but we are still wired to respond to stress the same way. These days we’re bombarded with information from the internet, news, and being constantly in touch with everyone. Our nervous systems are struggling to recover and stay calm. Staying calm - emotionally and physiologically - is especially important for couples trying to conceive. This is where craniosacral therapy comes in, by helping you get back to parasympathetic mode.
Craniosacral for Optimal Fertility
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 womb that the timing is right for conception, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and raising your child in a safe environment.
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) Preconception, pregnancy, and raising children can be stressful times. We’re not going to take away the stressors, but we can shift how the body responds to stress by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system.
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)
Honoring our bodies messages
When women experience hormonal dysfunction and struggle with fertility, our bodies are speaking their deep truths and needs. Honoring those messages reconnects us with our own sacred feminine and nourishes us. Most 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 intention 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.
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.