2016 was the year that meditation hit the big time.
The mindfulness and meditation app Headspace has been downloaded over 11 million times; the New York Times created an entire microsite around how to meditate; studios like MNDFL in New York City and The Den and Unplug in Los Angeles are solely devoted to meditation classes. And now, if you tell someone you’re taking the time to cultivate a daily meditation practice, it’s pretty normal.
Thanks to its boom in popularity, more and more research is getting evaluated on the science of meditation and exactly how it affects the body. Scientists express that there’s still much to learn about the mind-meditation connection, but what they know for sure is that regular meditation grows the prefrontal cortex, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep patterns, fights depression, helps reduce emotional stress levels, and even helps to manage chronic pain. So it might not be surprising to learn that meditation can improve a women’s likelihood of getting pregnant.
Researchers think it all gets boiled down to stress. In a study published in Human Reproduction, scientists found that women with high levels of stress are twice as likely not to get pregnant after trying for 12 months. Essentially, women who had more biomarkers of stress in their bodies were less likely to be able to conceive. The findings suggest that stress does contribute—at least in a small part—to female fertility.
On the flip side, women who participate in mindfulness and stress-relieving techniques actually see an increase in the likelihood that they’ll get pregnant—especially if they’re already having a hard time. A study published in Fertility and Sterility proved that women who undergo in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, and participate in mind-body awareness activities like yoga and meditation have a much higher pregnancy rate than those who rely on IVF alone. Meditators had successful IVF treatments 52 percent of the time compared to non-meditators, who only had a 20 percent success rate.
Fertility practitioners are catching on, and taking notes; according to The Wall Street Journal, fertility clinics around the country are eager to add stress-relieving workshops and classes to their offerings.
But if you’re a meditator who’s not trying to get pregnant, should you be worried? Probably not. A regular meditation practice isn’t going to make you magically super-fertile. It’s more likely that meditation, and other stress-relieving techniques, only increase the likelihood of pregnancy in stressed out moms-to-be—not the general population!