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A Fertility Doctor’s Response to “Relax and You’ll Get Pregnant”

What’s worse? A root canal or someone telling you yet again: “Relax and you’ll get pregnant.” This is one myth worth talking about with your friends and family. Tell them vacations don’t cure infertility. However, targeted fertility testing and effective treatments can lead to success.

At Texas Fertility Center, we highly recommend learning to manage stress; however, unwinding for a weekend won’t cure infertility. Trust us. These trite words of advice – relax and you’ll get pregnant – will never appear on a reproductive endocrinologist’s prescription pad.

First off, if you’ve tried unsuccessfully for 12 months (6 if you are over 35) and are still not pregnant, it’s time to see a fertility doctor. One in 8 couples experience infertility because a lot can go wrong. Eggs age. Sperm act lazy. The uterus won’t accept visitors. You wouldn’t tell a person with diabetes or cystic fibrosis to relax and wait for the symptoms to go away, right? That’s why the correct response to well wishers with relax-it-will-happen advice is this: Infertility is a disease and my doctor and I have a plan to overcome it. Thanks, anyway.

Now that we’ve established the myth, let’s examine the physiological impact of stress. Extreme, chronic, long-term stress will impact your overall health. In some women, chronic stress can cause irregular menstrual cycles and thus irregular ovulation. That’s because high levels of cortisol or epinephrine hormones, which the body produces in response to stress, can wreak havoc on the reproductive system. Also, excess stress just feels plain lousy and makes it difficult to manage other challenges in your life.

Psychologists report that infertility causes stress nearly as acute as that experienced by women undergoing treatment for cancer or heart disease. The roller-coaster life of a couple undergoing infertility treatment can undoubtedly test your mental and physical strength.

Couples with infertility have a lot of reasons to feel stress:

• It’s frustrating to feel that your body is somehow ‘broken’
• Fertility tests and treatments can take time and be expensive
• It can be difficult to be around friends and family who don’t have any idea of what it’s like to deal with infertility.

There are things that you can do to lower stress (and potentially enhance fertility) as you are considering further fertility evaluation and treatment. These things can make you feel more empowered at times when you are feeling powerless.

Top 5 Ways to Minimize Stress during Fertility Treatment

1. Exercise. Moderate physical activities such as power walking, yoga and zumba dancing release endorphins that combat stress. Intensive workouts could disrupt the reproductive cycle, so ask your physician or nurse about the ideal exercise regimen.

2. Add acupuncture. Some studies show the centuries old practice of acupuncture improves fertility rates. Like physical therapy, patients typically see results only with regular, ongoing treatment.

3. Get a massage. If the idea of spending more money on a spa visit sounds counter-productive, find a massage therapy school or rent a how-to video for your partner.

4. Meditate. Trigger the relaxation response with slow, abdominal breathing and visualization. In addition to lowering your stress level, meditation may improve sleep patterns and concentration.

5. Enlist support. Talking about infertility helps, and no one can empathize quite like your partner. Groups such as Resolve or private counseling also reinforce the consoling message that you are not alone.

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