How Astrology can help you manage psychological stress and its potential impact on fertility treatment outcome
In my research for my Master’s degree in Health Psychology, which I did in the mid-nineties at the University of Southampton, prior to my doctorate, I explored the therapeutic value of the doctor-patient relationship. Through this research, I learnt that a good relationship between doctor and patient or – in the case of fertility treatment – consultant and patient was extremely helpful to a successful outcome. In our modern lifestyles, we are encouraged to take responsibility for our own health issues where diet and fitness are concerned but taking responsibility goes deeper than this, I believe, when we are pursuing an important goal that is dependent upon achieving optimum good health.
As my research has shown, getting the date and the timing right can help to increase the likelihood of a successful fertility treatment outcome but there are other important factors in the treatment process that need to be considered and with which astrology may also be able to help.
The Fertility Treatment Process
The fertility treatment process should, I think, be seen as a partnership between you who are seeking medical help to achieve your goal of a family and the consultant who can offer you expert knowledge and healing to help you achieve this. For this to happen, two main factors have to be in place.
1. Your consultant has to be willing to involve you in your treatment process and to discuss it with you, enabling you to be as informed as possible in order to make the best decisions at the various stages of the process
2. You have to be confident and articulate enough to engage with your consultant on equal terms in order to ensure that they understand your feelings and your expectations, and exactly what information you need, at various stages in the treatment, in order to feel that, as they arise, your needs and concerns are being fully addressed.
When these factors are in place it is possible for you to feel in control of what is happening to you. It is also possible for your consultant to have the best chance of understanding the process from your side of the fence and your fears, vulnerabilities and concerns. Then, together, as you go through the actual stages of the treatment process leading up to embryo implantation, you and your consultant can meet your anxieties with the result that these anxieties are calmed and the process becomes less challenging because of this.
If your concerns are not met and continue to increase through the fertility treatment process, feelings of anxiety, a sense of powerlessness and increased feelings of depression may result. As these feelings may interfere with a successful treatment outcome, you need to find ways of meeting, understanding and managing them with the goal of, if not totally removing them, certainly diminishing their levels. back to top
Astrological analysis of your birth chart can be potentially very useful in helping you to deal with negative feelings about the experience and the possible outcomes. In my research for my doctorate, I made some discoveries about this.
One of my findings was that feeling in control of the treatment process is linked with less experience of depression and depression has been associated with failed treatment outcome. I was looking at how the women in my study undergoing treatment felt about the degree of control they had over what happened to them where health issues were concerned and I used a questionnaire called the Perceived Health Competence Scales (PHCS) to help me find this out. http://her.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/10/1/51 The PHCS is a list of statements. For each statement, you choose between a range of numbers from 1 to 5 to indicate how well the statement reflects what you feel. Your final score is then analysed giving an indication of how competent you feel about managing your own heath issues and the degree to which you may feel competent and efficient in your ability to manage your own health outcomes. The PHCS was developed by Professor Kenneth Wallston, who is Professor of Psychology in Nursing at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing http://www.nursing.vanderbilt.edu/research/wallston.html
Raised levels of anxiety has been linked with failed treatment outcome in a number of studies. There is a huge bank of research, much of it not directly accessible on the internet, showing a significant link between these two factors but you will find two examples of such studies, at the following website addresses:-
- The influence of stress and state anxiety on the outcome of IVF-treatment: psychological and endocrinological assessment of Swedish women entering IVF-treatment.
- Psychological stress – infertile women
So it’s important to search for ways in which to reduce these kinds of stress for women who are preparing for IVF, and other forms of treatment such as GIFT, ZIFT, IUI and FET in order to increase the likelihood of being successful with a fertility treatment attempt. back to top
My research showed that the degree to which a woman felt competent in managing her health issues was significantly linked with a reduced level of anxiety. That is to say, the more in control she felt the less anxious she was likely to be about the fertility treatment process. As increased levels of anxiety have been shown, in other research, to be associated with increased likelihood of failure of treatment outcome, any technique that will help fertility treatment women to develop and sustain a sense of control over their own health issues have great potential value to succeeding with your fertility treatment. Some of the women on my study said that they felt that the consultant was sometimes insensitive to their emotional vulnerability and even that they felt as if they were being treated like “a slab of meat”.
Proneness to depression and experience of it, prior to undergoing treatment can also be potentially problematic in relation to success of treatment outcome as a study of 138 women showed http://www.springerlink.com/content/gv76184512482393/
In this study, anxiety and depression levels in the fertility treatment failed group were significantly higher than in the success group.
People prone to anxiety and depression tend to catastrophise – they expect the worst outcome in a situation so might astrology be used to help counter this tendency and, if so, how?
Two researchers, Lillqvist and Lindeman (1998), www.psycontent.com/abstracts/hh/epp/1998/03/body-epp0303202.html researching an association between belief in astrology and tendency to experience an increased number of stressful life events, found that in a study of 50 students attending courses on astrology and German language in Helsinki-based further and higher education institutions, the astrology group had experienced significantly more recent crises than the control group. Analyses of the differences between these two groups suggested that astrology played a successful role in coping with acutely stressful situations, and that astrology appeared to provide meaningful explanations for ambiguous and confusing experiences, giving a feeling of increasing the sense of control over one’s own actions.
The people taking part were not informed of the true objectives of the study, and were told that these objectives were concerned with people’s perceptions of themselves and the world. The study concluded: “astrological information seemed to have the function of fulfilling the basic need for self-comprehension in general and in stressful situations in particular” (p 207). Although more research on a larger number of people was recommended because only 50 students took part in this research.
I believe that this finding is potentially valuable when considering how astrology might be used to help women through the fertility treatment process. Using astrology to help to get to know themselves better, generally, in terms of self-assertion and confronting and understanding their fears could increase the sense of control. As my research has shown, an increased sense of control has an important relationship with the levels of anxiety where, in the first study in my doctorate increased perceived competence led to a greater feeling of control and the greater the feeling of control the lower the levels of levels of anxiety and depression. back to top
The relationship between psychology, astrology and treatment outcome
My research explored the assertions of the ancient astrological texts that contacts of the planets Venus and Jupiter to the birth chart, at certain years during a woman’s life indicated times when they would be likely to have children.
But Venus and Jupiter are also associated with happiness and success so if you have what are called “good aspects” to these planets at various points during your life, traditional astrology tells us that you will experience times of joy and good fortune. So, it could be that fertility treatment women are more likely to experience a successful outcome under these contacts because they are more likely to feel less anxious and depressed and, therefore, more optimistic, relaxed, positive and happy. If astrological counselling can be used to help women develop a positive outlook, no matter what challenges they may face this may be valuable in helping to increase their chances of eventually experiencing a successful fertility treatment outcome.
Again, there has been some research into anxiety and fear and their possible origins. In his book, “Then Meaning of Anxiety, (publishers: Norton, New York, USA, 1977) R. May suggested that anxiety and fear were rooted in a lack of admiration, acceptance, being liked by others, for whatever reasons, usually related to something we feel threatens what we are all about and why we should be important. Traditionally, Saturn has been associated with these feelings in modern astro-psychology http://www.astroawareness.com/planets/saturn.html but my research suggests that it could be Venus (attractiveness, happiness and popularity) and Jupiter (success) that are important astrological significators in our birth charts in getting to know and understand what can really make us happy and feel valued and happy in life and absence of these contacts at certain times during in our lives may allow depressive prone types to succumb to negative thoughts that may impact on treatment outcome.. When Venus and Jupiter contacts trigger points in our birth charts in positive ways, particularly during childbearing years, this might be why, in psychological terms, there is less likelihood of us feeling anxious so that we experience less anxiety related to the conditions described by May (1977), and the naturally buoyant feelings we experience under contacts of Venus and Jupiter lead to increased likelihood of conceiving a child, whether or not by assisted reproductive techniques. This may be because the astrological factors Venus and Jupiter tend to be present when the attempt to conceive, normally or through fertility treatment, is likely to be successful. But, even if they are not present, understanding how to make your own Venus and Jupiter work for you in the most positive of ways at any point in your life may be helpful towards succeeding in creating a family of your own, if you are considering entering into the fertility treatment process in order to have children of your own.