Glengarry Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care

How to Reduce Stress When You’re Trying to Conceive

Jul 26, 2017

Deciding to have a baby is one of the most exciting times of your life, but when yet another month passes without a positive result, the excitement inevitably starts to fade.

It’s very common for stress and anxiety to build when you’re not falling pregnant as quickly as you’d hoped. You might be in one of these situations:

  • Trying for months or even years with no luck
  • Conceived easily with the first baby and expected the second one to be the same
  • Currently going through IVF
  • Have had gynaecological issues in the past and you knew it’d be a hard road
  • Trying to fall pregnant after a miscarriage.

It is difficult to stay calm and in a positive headspace month after month, but reducing stress is important for all couples trying to fall pregnant — regardless of whether you have just started trying or are dealing with longstanding infertility issues.

Can stress affect fertility?

It may, but there is simply not enough scientific evidence to say to what extent. Stress could mean you are simply having intercourse less often and therefore decreasing your chances of conceiving, and there are some studies that indicate stress impacts the hormones needed for sperm production and ovulation. What is very well-established is that stress has an impact on emotional wellbeing, physical health and longevity, so it would be wise to reduce worry and pressure wherever you can.

Strategies to reduce stress

You might receive lots of well-meaning advice from family and friends that only leaves you feeling frustrated: “relax and it will happen eventually”, “have a glass of wine and let nature take its course” and so on. This is easier said than done when the subject of your worry is as significant as starting a family.

In saying that, there are a number of widely-accepted stress-reduction strategies that have worked for many others in your situation. The key is to take a few small steps, practiced regularly. Over time you’ll find these steps add up.

Eat well and exercise

It’s normal to turn to comfort food when you’re feeling anxious and down. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a treat now and then. However, if you’re eating unhealthy food too often, you could find it starts to affect your wellbeing. Multiple studies have shown that a diet high in sugar, refined grains, and processed and fried food negatively affects mood and increases depressive symptoms. You don’t have to avoid these foods completely, but the idea is to make healthier decisions, more often.

Exercise is an easy, natural way to beat stress. You should do whatever physical activity suits you and that you enjoy enough to keep up over time. You may prefer being outdoors — this has the added benefit of being out in the natural environment, which is a mood booster in itself — or you may like team sports such as volleyball or basketball, or solo activities like gardening or bike rides.

Find someone to talk to

A psychologist, counsellor or a fertility group will help if you need to talk about your situation with an impartial person who understands what you’re going through. A qualified professional can help you with relationship strains, answer questions from family and friends, and manage your feelings when other couples are falling pregnant and you’re not.

Take care to not wallow in your problems, though. It can be an easy trap to fall into: talking about your worries endlessly and ruminating over possible reasons why it’s not happening. This is when it becomes unhelpful.

Take a break from social media

Many studies have found that the more time spent online, the more depressed and anxious you can feel. It’s human nature to compare ourselves with our peers and size up our life choices, especially at times when we’re not feeling overly positive. For couples who are struggling to conceive, seeing friends online announcing pregnancies and sharing pictures of their families can be disheartening.

Limit how much you use social media, particularly at night when you should be clearing your head and winding down for the day.

Learn meditation and mindfulness

Being in the present moment instead of endlessly thinking about the past or worrying about the future helps to reduce stress. Mindfulness and meditation are both excellent ways to help clear your mind and prevent negative thoughts from snowballing. It teaches you to accept, rather than fight, your feelings.

There are plenty of books, apps, free videos and resources online to help you get started. You may find learning a simple exercise, such as breathing techniques, can make a significant difference.

Make a worry time

If you find it difficult to stop intrusive, negative thoughts, you might benefit from a technique known as ‘worry time’. When negative thoughts appear, rather than indulging them, set a time and place where you will sit and worry about all that has tried to demand your attention.  

This strategy is often used by psychologists and counsellors to help prevent negative thoughts intruding continually and allows you to get on with day-to-day tasks.

Complementary therapies

There are many complementary therapies that can increase relaxation and reduce stress, including hypnotherapy, reflexology and acupuncture. Visiting a beauty therapist, massage therapist or a hairdresser can also help you relax and take your mind off pregnancy and fertility.

It may simply be the act of speaking to someone new, about something other than babies, that helps lift your mood.

Find time to laugh

It can be hard but try to remember what you used to do before you were trying for a baby. Comedy clubs and live shows are a good way to take your mind off things and stay in the present moment. Plus, laughter is a proven, excellent stress-reliever.

Embrace your hobbies or find a new one

When we get down or go through tough patches, it’s easy to forget what makes us happy and we might neglect to look after our emotional and physical health. However, when we try new things or do more of the things we enjoy, life begins to expand. There are many lists of pleasurable activities available free online, but here are 20 ideas:

  • Have breakfast by yourself, take time to read the news and people-watch
  • Watch a sunrise
  • Go to a sporting event or concert
  • Pack up the car and take a road trip
  • Discover a new podcast
  • Paint, sketch or colour-in
  • Spend an hour taking photos of nature, architecture or food
  • Go bowling
  • Read a book in the park
  • Take a bubble bath with candles and music
  • Take a class in something you’d never usually try
  • Look though old home movies or photos
  • Go fishing or boating
  • Find a dark place and stargaze
  • Try gardening or floristry
  • Plan a romantic picnic
  • Go to a museum or restaurant you’ve never been to
  • Attend a trivia night
  • Go go-carting with friends
  • Act like a tourist and go sightseeing in your own city

Dr Philip Rowlands is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecological Surgeon who has many years’ experience helping couples with fertility issues. To book in with Dr Rowlands, visit his website www.drphiliprowlands.com.au or call (08) 9448 6064. To find out more about delivering your baby at Glengarry Private Hospital, visit the maternity services page.