How to De-Stress While
Trying to Conceive

Written & Edited by: Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA & Dr. Ashley Eskew MD, MSCI

Last updated: October 27th, 2020

Woman with Pregnancy Test in Hand Feeling Stressed About Trying to Conceive

There’s no doubt that trying to conceive and going through fertility treatments can be some of the most stressful times in an individual’s life.

So much seems out of your control.

The hours and days spent waiting and wondering… Is my period going to come… Will I ovulate this month… Do I need to make an appointment with a fertility specialist… Is there anything more I can be doing to increase my chances of getting pregnant?

Countless trips to the bathroom peeing on a stick, wanting to see those two lines.

And if you’re going through fertility treatments… the seemingly endless doctor visits with ultrasounds… and bloodwork… and medications… and medical bills.  

It’s a LOT to deal with.

And no… we are NOT going to tell you  “just relax and it will happen.” That statement drives us crazy too. With that said, it’s absolutely critical to identify de-stressing strategies that work for YOU!

Because no matter the circumstances… you deserve to be cared for 🙂

Is Stress Bad for Fertility?

There’s absolutely no denying that trying to get pregnant is stressful. 

In fact, coping with infertility has been shown to be just as stressful as a cancer diagnosis.

Yet, the question of whether stress makes it more difficult to conceive is highly debated. And although you may have heard the vexing wives’ tale claiming that stress decreases fertility, this notion has been challenging to confirm. Yes, you can find some studies that correlate the stress hormone cortisol to pregnancy rates, but these have not been widely reproduced. 

So at the present moment in time, the current thinking is that stress alone does not cause infertility… meaning you can go ahead and dismiss that whole “just relax, and it will happen” chatter.

Stress Factors Impacting Fertility

It’s almost impossible to avoid stress in our daily lives, even if you’re not trying to conceive. 

However, there are certain stress factors that can become magnified when you are working hard to grow your family. 

Make sure to take a moment and develop awareness around which fertility-related stressors are manifesting in your life. The more we become mindful of the stressors in our lives, the easier it becomes for us to address them. 

Access to information:

Social media and Dr. Google can be very helpful sometimes, but there can be too much of a good thing. And it’s all too easy to fall into the comparison trap on social media.

It can quickly get to the point where it takes a drastic toll on you emotionally.

If you have negative feelings swell up every time you get on social, consider taking a social media holiday (gasp). Try it for a day, a week, or a month even, and see how you feel.

If you don’t want to delete your account, maybe just try deleting the app off your phone to remove the easy access. Or maybe try muting the accounts that aren’t serving you in a positive way.

When it comes to Dr. Google, quite honestly, it’s really hard to know fact from fiction. 

But if you’re not getting the information you’re looking for from your healthcare provider, what else can you do?

Look for credentials. Look for statements backed by research (not just the “it worked for me so it will work for everyone” statements) or use reputable sources like Reproductive Facts or Resolve.

And of course, we at OvulifeMD are always here to support you as well.

Awareness of passing time: 

There’s no awareness of time passing quite like that of when you’re trying to conceive.

The two-week wait… waiting on your next period… waiting on your test results… waiting for your next doctor’s appointments… waiting… waiting… waiting.

It can feel like life is on hold. 

And while the periods of “waiting” aren’t in your control, remember that what you choose to do with that time is

Do things that support you physically, mentally, and emotionally in a positive manner. Because that can and will make a difference for you!

 Avoiding social situations:

It can be extra challenging to want to spend time with a friend when they simply cannot relate… or they don’t know what to say… or they keep saying all the wrong things.

Then there’s all the baby-related social gathering… the baby showers… the birthday parties… It’s heavy. It’s hard. And it’s normal to have feelings of resentment – don’t feel bad about that.

More importantly, know it’s also okay to say “no thank you” or decline an invitation to something. You don’t have to give a reason. Simply, “I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to make it.” 

Choose your mental health first – a true friend will understand.

On the other hand, if showing up and being around people is what you need, then do that and enjoy it. If you decide to open up about your journey, you may be surprised at how many can relate. 

You are not alone in this.

Lack of emotional support: 

Similar to your friends, your family can have well-intentioned advice that isn’t exactly what you need to hear.

Just relax and it’ll happen… Your cousin Susie did x, y or z and it worked for her… You should try what aunt May did – she has 5 kids!

In those situations consider being open and let them know that although you appreciate their intentions, you simply need their support. If they don’t understand or won’t listen, take some space as needed.

Of course, there’s also the tension and stress that can arise between partners while trying to conceive. And although some studies have shown that couples experience discord, others suggest that couples ultimately become closer over time

For many heterosexual couples, the burden of trying to conceive tends to fall heaviest on the woman – she’s the one undergoing the majority of treatments with accompanying side effects. She’s also the one that often has to modify her lifestyle the most for both treatments and pregnancy, which can lead to further discord. 

To make things more challenging, when compared with their male partners, women tend to experience a greater loss of self-esteem and higher levels of distress, all while desiring to talk with their partner more about their fertility issues.

Now, this isn’t always the case, and men have to go through procedures and drastic lifestyle changes too. But in general, the opposite tends to be true more often than not.

We don’t point these differences out to discourage, but to remind you that you’re not alone. It’s normal to experience differences between you and your partner in how you cope and experience the fertility journey. The important thing is to recognize these differences and develop coping strategies that support one another in your unique ways.

One last thing… If your healthcare provider doesn’t offer you resources for a licensed psychologist or other emotional support, then we encourage you to ask. If you aren’t under the care of a medical provider, check out The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s additional resources.

If counseling doesn’t feel right to you yet, consider joining a local support group to speak with others who will have a better understanding of what you’re going through.

Balancing work: 

Sometimes, going to fertility doctor’s appointments can seem like a full-time job.

Blood work, ultrasounds, picking up prescriptions, consults… it can be very disruptive to your daily life while trying to balance work, home, self-care, friends, family, and all the things.

Allow yourself grace in knowing that you can’t be everywhere at once and give 110% to your work and your family.

Everyday Stress Relief When TTC

No matter the source of our stress, it’s critical that we develop everyday strategies for resilience. 

Having a few daily practices help us manage how stressful events affect us – no matter the cause. And the key here is consistency – research shows that just a few minutes a day can have a big impact. 

And hear us now… You and your future family are the top priority. Do what you need to do to stay balanced. To recharge. To revamp.

Here are a few of our favorite everyday stress relief strategies at OvulifeMD…

Infographic of six strategies for stress relief when trying to conceive.

Get outside:

Sometimes when the whole world feels like it’s crashing down simply getting outside and getting some fresh air can make all the difference in the world.

According to a study conducted by the EPA the average American spends 93% of their time indoors. Crazy, right? Let’s change that!

Go on a walk. Go on a hike. Or sit in the sun and just be. 

Adopt the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku (‘forest bathing’). It’s not bathing in the traditional sense, it is simply being in nature, connecting with the forest through all your senses. And yes, we recommend leaving your cell phone behind for this activity 🙂

Moreover, by getting outside, you not only get the mental and physical benefits, but you’ll also get a little vitamin D and serotonin boost from the sunshine, and be more likely to sleep better at night.

Exercise: 

As long as you’re not overdoing, regular exercise will not harm your efforts to conceive. It will likely only help!

And for those of you who are up for more than just a brisk walk outside, take time for your favorite exercise routine. 

Whether it’s a dance class or a spin session or a bout of weight lifting, do what makes your body feel good and releases some endorphins. 

Keep a journal: 

Keeping a journal is a great way to process emotions and feelings that are hard to express out loud. 

It has been shown to boost your mood, and your sense of well-being while reducing symptoms of depression and improving your overall quality of life.

Journaling is also a great way to develop a gratitude practice by starting and ending your day by writing down the things that you are most grateful for.

Meditation:

Mind-body techniques such as meditation have been shown to improve quality of life and decrease anxiety and depression scores in couples undergoing fertility treatments.

Calm, Headspace, and Circleandbloom are great meditation apps that are easy to start with. Maybe try them first thing as you wake up, or right before you go to bed.

All it takes is 2 minutes.

Practice deep breathing:

Practice intentional breathing while you’re in the waiting room… during the 2-week wait… while you’re in the car on the way to the office. Anytime you feel stress bubbling up, give it a try.

Intentional breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) is when you fill your chest so fully with air that your lower lungs expand into your diaphragm which causes your belly to expand. It’s a more conscious breath.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is our favorite.

Exhale completely with your mouth open. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath to the count of 7. Exhale slowly over 8 counts.

You can do it anytime, anywhere – that simple. 

Yoga:

The regular practice of yoga in women who’ve been diagnosed with infertility or who are undergoing IVF has resulted in improved self-compassion, mindfulness, and quality of life scores as well as a significant decrease in depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and feelings of shame and defeat.

In fact, as little as one 55-minute yoga practice once a week for six weeks leading up to IVF treatment has been associated with improved quality of life and mind-body scores as well as a significant reduction in anxiety and depression.

 Pretty power stuff!

One of our favorite things about this practice is that it requires zero equipment (not even a mat).  It can also be done almost anywhere. YouTube has a ton of free great videos so check those out and find one you like! 

Start with 20 minutes once a week and work your way up as you see fit.

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that your fertility journey comes with it’s own unique challenges and stressors – things that women who haven’t walked in your shoes will never understand. 

In addition to implementing a plan for everyday resiliency, it’s also important to manage the more common fertility-rated stressors. 

So remember… 

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    Seek trusted information.

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    Reach for support when you need it (even when you think you don’t).

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    Say no more often.

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    Embrace your feelings.

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    Destress in a way that serves you best.

We hope that the resources we’ve provided here help you navigate your journey with a bit more ease…. Remember, you are not alone in this.

With Love & Empowerment,
Dr. Ashley Eskew and Dr. Will Haas

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