With all the talk of how stress impacts fertility, women want to know if they can still get pregnant when they’re stressed. The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, too, so the real question is how much harder is it to get (or stay) pregnant when you’re stressed? That answer is different for everyone.
Everyone—even people who aren’t dealing with infertility—face certain amounts of stress in their daily life at all times. So it’s clearly possible to get and stay pregnant with stress in your life. The question that people are really asking is “Can stress make me infertile?”
The problem with the stress/infertility connection is that it really hasn’t been studied enough to nail down solid answers. Doctors say that for some women, stress can cause issues when trying to get pregnant. But others manage to conceive even when their bodies are under considerable amounts of stress from tobacco use, work demands, or even personal loss and grief. No two humans are the same, and while we may prize our individuality, it also means that we won’t ever fully understand all of the complexities behind what causes every person to stress, and moreover, how individual stress can contribute to infertility or other health problems.
The good news is that for most people, stress won’t be the factor that prevents pregnancy. Some women do face conditions that cause their infertility: autoimmune disease, premature ovarian failure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and others. For most of these, women will respond to more invasive fertility treatments, like IUI or IVF. Women who don’t have quality eggs have the option of embryo adoption (or using donor eggs) to conceive through IVF.
Fertility doctors often give the advice that women need to reduce their stress while they try to conceive or undergo fertility treatment. But the fact is, all such treatments are incredibly stressful emotionally and physically. Adding worry over the fact that stress is present only makes matters worse. Instead of focusing on reducing stress, women should instead focus on things that make them happy and allows them to feel the most like themselves. By doing so, they naturally decrease stress levels using their subconscious.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine lists many of the following as ways to reduce stress during fertility treatment:
– Aerobic exercise (may be reduced during treatment)
– Expert counseling for stress reduction
– Guided imagery
– Mind/body support groups and mindfulness
– Muscle relaxation techniques
– Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy
– Self-help books
– Support groups
– Yoga, Pilates, and Tai-Chi
Very few women can claim to have been experiencing no stress at all at the time of conception. It comes down to how your individual body handles your personal set of stressors. Since you know yourself best, it’s ideal to be proactive with managing your stress. Eliminate as many items from your life and your schedule as you can, and take up a form of stress-reduction practice (i.e. meditation, yoga, religious practices, regular massage therapy, acupuncture, etc.).
Infertility is classed by most women as the most stressful time of their lives, so it’s important to understand that what you’re going through is a significant challenge. Finding other women who have gone through or are experiencing the same things you are is a powerful tool for coping with and reducing stress. It’s also essential to focus on your relationship with your partner, if you have one. The drive to conceive can often feel all-consuming, so it’s important to balance that with other interests and priorities.
Since stress is primarily a “mind game,” you will do far better if you have a game plan when dealing with infertility. The goal isn’t to be stress-free, but rather, to reduce the physical, mental, and emotional effects that stress can have on your body. Understanding your needs, as well as finding stress-relieving activities that can produce calm within you will be beneficial throughout your fertility journey.
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