Take a moment to think about your first sexual experiences. While there was undoubtedly an element of excitement and anticipation, there were also likely concerns about safety and preventing pregnancy. After all, our middle school sex-ed textbooks made it sound like getting pregnant was as easy as 1, 2, 3.
However, as weeks and months turn into years of negative pregnancy tests, you’re probably left with a plethora of other worries.
Should you try one more IVF cycle? Will a baby born through egg donation feel like your own? Is adoption the next best option? Can you afford any of these possibilities?
It’s no surprise that 25–60% of individuals with infertility problems also struggle with mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
The journey to having a baby after an infertility diagnosis is long, exhausting, and mentally challenging.
Unfortunately, stressing about the experience could be making the problem worse. So, the question becomes: how can you manage your emotions while trying to conceive the baby you’re longing for?
Thankfully, there are a few great options to help you balance your stress and manage any anxious feelings you might have.
Does stress make infertility problems worse?
Before diving into the best stress management techniques while undergoing fertility treatment, it’s crucial to understand the role your stress and anxiety could be playing in your conception troubles.
When people become stressed and anxious, their bodies begin to produce higher levels of an enzyme known as alpha-amylase. Researchers have proven that people with an increased amount of this enzyme in their system had a harder time conceiving.
In one study, 25% of the participants with heightened alpha-amylase had a 12% decrease in their chances of getting pregnant each cycle.
While there’s no guarantee anxiety will make conception harder, enough information exists to support the importance of practicing good stress management techniques.
6 Tips for stress management during fertility treatment
Balancing your stress and anxiety levels is an integral part of navigating fertility treatment to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed by the process. If you’ve been feeling extremely stressed or anxious while trying to conceive, consider the following six management techniques and tricks to help you get through your treatment.
Starting a regular workout routine isn’t just good for your physical health – it’s also an effective way to manage stress. When we exercise , our bodies produce endorphins, a chemical which stabilises moods and offers natural pain relief.
When people work out, they’re also more distracted from the day-to-day matters in their lives. Busying your mind with exercise will reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about your fertility.
In recent decades, various integrative therapies have earned a place as preferred treatment options for stress and anxiety. When individuals are hoping to take a more natural, less medicated approach to manage their stress, any of the following treatments are an excellent choice:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Taking up a new hobby
As with exercise, when you’re focused on an activity or hobby, your mind is busy. This can serve as a distraction from the mental struggle individuals deal with throughout their infertility experience.
Whether you start painting, journaling, playing the piano, or something else you enjoy, finding a hobby you can throw yourself into is a great way to balance your stress levels.
Practising good communication
Talking is key when it comes to stress management.
If we keep our stressors and concerns bottled up, it can feel like there’s never any relief from them. Communicating with friends, family, and your partner can help you work through your negative emotions and provide some comfort.
Cutting back on caffeine
While giving up coffee might seem like the opposite of what you should do when you’re feeling stressed, an increase in your coffee intake can possibly exacerbate your problems. In fact, one study found that people who use caffeine, whether it’s routinely or sporadically, are twice as likely to experience increased stress.
So while you might not have to cut out caffeine altogether when you’re stressed, minimizing your intake could be helpful.
Asking your doctor for help
What’s the most important tip for managing your stress and anxiety?
Keep your doctor informed about how you’re feeling.
If it seems like your stress levels are starting to get the best of you, your physician or fertility specialist can likely recommend alternative solutions to help. Instead of waiting until things get really bad, let them assist you with your anxieties from the start.
Dealing with stress is a top priority for fertility patients
It’s not unusual to find yourself facing heightened stress levels when you’re undergoing fertility treatment. What’s important is finding healthy ways to deal with those emotions.
Whether you start yoga, cut down on coffee, or make an appointment with your doctor, taking proactive measures to manage your stress is sure to help improve how you navigate your fertility treatment.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.