Stress and Infertility
In our early adult years we spent so much effort on prevention, who knew that conception could be so difficult, or that Stress and Infertility were related.
For more than a couple of years my husband and I tried to conceive a child. At that time we never heard that stress decreases your chances of conceiving. We endured months and months of taking temperatures, doctor visits, disappointments, crying, trying new medications, testing of all kinds and grieving. It was a horrible roller-coaster ride. But, in the end, we conceived and Tayler was born. We were not alone in our struggles. Infertility rates in Canada are increasing with roughly 1 in 6 couples experiencing fertility issues.
Studies reveal high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can make it difficult to conceive. Click to tweet
Stress and Infertility: Silent Struggles
While we were going through this struggle, we told very few people, especially our families. We couldn’t deal with the questions like, “Who’s fault is it?”. I didn’t want to hear advice like, “just relax”, or hear another story about a couple who finally conceived after they “stopped trying.” I knew that studies showed that couples had an increased chance of conceiving when less stressed, but that didn’t help me or my husband to ‘relax’.
Stress was all around us and it grew as the months passed. Here is what we know about stress and infertility:
- Trying to conceive is an emotional roller coaster of hope, grief, anger and disappointment.
- Feelings of losing control – no matter how hard a couple might work at conceiving and how carefully they follow the physician’s instructions, they have limited control over the outcome.
- Identity can be tied to success of conception. Self-esteem can suffer.
- Financial strains may increase due to time off for doctor’s appointments and treatments that may not be covered under health insurance or benefits.
- Marital stress and sexual pressure can railroad a relationship. Couples who go through cycles of sex-on-demand often find that lovemaking loses its spontaneity and playfulness. Sex becomes a chore to be performed at mid-cycle only and many couples do not recover.
- Illness becomes more prevalent. One study found that 40% of women dealing with infertility experienced depression or anxiety as well—the same rate as women dealing with heart disease or cancer.
- Sleep can become a rare commodity. Stress causes insomnia and sleep deprivation which leads to changes in the daily rhythm of many hormones connected to reproduction.
Beverly’s Tips For Building Resiliency, Increasing Your Chances of Conceiving and Celebrating Infertility Awareness Week:
Find Ways To Relax:
- Enroll in a yoga class. Yoga helps you stay centered, get relaxed and manage your stress.
- Go for a relaxing massage. Take some time out of your week to get a massage, which can help give your body and mind some time away from daily stressors.
- Read something uplifting or look at a beautiful scene. These types of activities activate our positive emotional centers and promote relaxation.
- Try acupressure. Reconnect with your partner by trying acupressure (a blend of “acupuncture” and “pressure”) which is a known relaxation technique that may help reduce stress. A common technique to relax and unblock emotion involves placing your fingers on your spouse’s foot, on the line between the big toe and the second toe, and moving your finger in a counter clockwise direction over this point.
- Take a couple of quiet moments to yourself. Noise increases our stress. Try creating a quiet space, where you can be alone in your thoughts. You may enjoy a quiet moment soaking in a bubble bath with some scented candles.
Get More Sleep:
Stress may cause insomnia – here are some tips to maintain a normal sleep routine:
- Maintain a regular bedtime routine. This will help regulate your energy and hormones.
- Aim to get between 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep per night. Stress increases our need for sleep.
- Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. Keep it dark, quiet and cool.
Be Nutrition Wise:
Our nutrition impacts the way in which our bodies function, both efficiently and effectively. Here are some tips on how to maintain healthful living:
- Cut back on sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, look for other ways to satisfy your cravings. Reading labels is a great way to ensure that you’re not over-consuming on sugary foods. Sugar raises blood glucose rapidly which can cause the body to secrete high amounts of insulin. Once blood glucose levels plummet, the body can release cortisol and adrenalin which can affect both menstruation and fertility.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Coffee is often the go-to beverage during a long and stressful day, but excessive caffeine has a suppressive effect on the liver and this may affect hormone balance. Caffeine may also reduce blood flow to the uterus.
- Increase your water intake. There are many reasons why Canadians should consume water. Staying well hydrated is important for every part of the human body.
- Treat yourself with purpose. One way to help you cut back on over-indulging is to connect special treats with a special social outing. Instead of eating ice cream by yourself in front of the TV, enjoy it with purpose by making it a special afternoon outing with friends or family.
- Floss for fertility. Maintaining good oral health is important for the overall health of moms-to-be and their babies. In fact, gum disease can potentially lengthen the time it takes for a woman to conceive. Some studies have also shown a correlation between maternal gum disease and premature birth. Visit your dentist regularly, floss daily to loosen plaque, brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and use an antiseptic rinse to maintain your oral health.
Aim For Emotional Balance:
Watch out for negative emotions such as anger, guilt, or resentment, which many women may feel at some point in their journeys to conceive. Set realistic expectations – most couples do not get pregnant right away. It is normal for conception to take several months to a year.
A Clearblue Fertility Insights Survey revealed that 45% of those trying to conceive admit that it took/is taking longer to get pregnant than what they expected. Nearly 1 in 3 described “uncertainty” as the most stressful element relating to conception. Click to tweet
Laughter can take the edge off of a stressful day. Think about something funny, or go see a comedian.
Stress and Infertility: Take Advantage of Support and Counselling:
Sometimes we need to ask for help to manage our stress. Especially when stress decreases your chances 0f conceiving, connecting with a doctor or psychologist and undergoing ‘talking therapies’ can help you work through your fears and anxieties, which can reduce your overall stress levels and help boost your chances to conceive. Friends and family that may have undergone similar difficulties may be helpful to speak with as well.
Keep the Romance Alive While Trying to Conceive
When couples have been trying to get pregnant for a few months, something shifts in their relationship and immediately lovemaking becomes baby-making. A Clearblue Fertility Consumer Insights Survey revealed that men are more likely than women to raise that keeping the romance going was a concern when trying to conceive.
Change your sex life only as much as you need to.
Don’t guess. Pinpoint your two best days to conceive with the Clearblue digital ovulation test, and have sex on those days. Try to put a priority on lovemaking the rest of the month.
Make “being a couple” a priority.
Schedule a date night each week to stay connected and focus the communication on everything except baby making. Take the pressure off and rediscover each other. Find ways to be physically intimate without having sex. Remember the fun of just kissing. Appreciate what your partner does for you each day. Find one thing that you are grateful for about your partner and share it with them.
Change it up.
Rearrange your bedroom furniture or redecorate to give your bedroom a new energy.
Book a romantic getaway.
Try taking a conception-moon (or baby making vacation) to add a spark of romance. The idea is to escape from the daily pressures of life at home, have time together as a couple to connect, refresh, recharge, and start the family you are hoping for. Take advantage of couples massage therapies at spas. These romantic retreats allow couples to relax, reduce stress and muscle tension and spend intimate time together.
Stress and Infertility: If you know someone who is experiencing fertility issues:
Let them know that you understand how difficult this is for them and that you are there to listen to their frustrations, their fears, and their disappointments. Find subtle ways to inform them of the relationship between stress and infertility, but please don’t just tell them to ‘Just Relax’!
Contact Beverly about hosting a mental health workshop for your teams on work life balance. Discover tips to deal with stress and how to build resilience!
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!