They say that 5 things in life can cause major stress. Death of a loved one. Change in marital status (be it a divorce or planning a wedding). Changing jobs. Changing homes. Dealing with a major illness in yourself or somebody you love.
I would add a sixth. Trying to conceive.
The fertility journey is incredibly stress-laden.
It doesn’t start out that way. Most everyone starts out bright and optimistic, assuming that they’ll be pregnant in a few months. No one ever thinks that they’re going to be the ones to have trouble with getting pregnant and having a baby.
But then as the months wear on, reality sets in. And the stress can be unbearable. The heartbreak of countless negative pregnancy tests. The anguish of actually getting pregnant and then losing the pregnancy to miscarriage. Seeing pregnant women everywhere. Maybe even hearing from some of your friends that they’re pregnant and they weren’t even trying.
And the longer it takes, the more stressful it gets, so the cycle becomes a vicious circle and feeds on itself.
It’s not a journey for the faint of heart.
At some point, you start to wonder if your infertility is causing your stress or your stress is causing your infertility.
The answer is both. Chronic stress can affect ovulation by changing signals to the brain and pituitary gland that regulate production of the reproductive hormones.
So it’s a really good idea to find effective ways to manage your stress while you’re trying for a baby.
Sounds great, right? But it’s definitely easier said than done and requires a lot of effort. How do you actually do it?
I have a few suggestions for managing stress, things that I did that really helped, and other things that I didn’t do but wish I had.
- Keep a Journal. This is one that really worked for me! Sometimes, it’s just easier to express and process your feelings on paper than out loud. Studies have shown that keeping a journal can help to relieve stress. So go to the store and pick out the one you think has the most beautiful cover, and pick a gorgeous pen to go with it. It’ll be your special place for YOU.
Journaling for me definitely ebbs and flows, and I have loads of journals going all the way back to high school, 30 years ago! And during the time that I was trying to have a baby, I journaled a lot. It really helped to be able to write when I felt like I didn’t have anybody else to talk to. You’ve got to keep it real, though: remember, no one reads your journal, so you can use colorful language, and express anything you want even if it doesn’t seem appropriate. Don’t censor yourself.
- Get out in nature. It’s amazing how much calmer we can feel just by getting outside. There’s something about the fresh air and a gentle breeze that help us find our calm center. The benefits of sunshine and Vitamin D are well documented too, of course. Next time you’re feeling some stress, try going outside and just sitting on a bench for 15 minutes, and breathe in the calm. Take a little time to observe the trees, the flowers, the birds, the clouds. It might give you exactly what you need to push through the stress you’re feeing at that moment, and give you a little pick-me-up to get through the rest of the day.
- Moving the body is terrific on so many levels. Exercise has well-documented benefits for stress reduction. It can both reduce your anxiety and improve your mood.
As you know I’m not a huge exerciser, but getting your body moving is a great way to reclaim your power during the process of trying to conceive, when you can often feel completely powerless over your body. When I was trying to get pregnant yoga was my lifeline!
- Reach out to friends or loved ones but be selective. This can be a tricky one. Humans are social creatures and we’re wired for wanting and needing the companionship and support of others. The fertility journey can be such a lonely, isolating one that this support is crucial for your wellbeing.
At the same time, it can be counter-productive if you’re reaching out and the interactions make you feel worse. If you feel like someone doesn’t “get” you or understand your journey, or, because they had 5 kids without any effort you feel like you can’t relate to them, they might not be the right person to reach out to. During this time, you want to be around people who lift you up, not bring you down.
I wish I had reached out to people more when I was trying to get pregnant. I often felt very alone. I knew the importance of having a good support system but didn’t make the effort to cultivate that. I think I’d have not felt so alone if I had.
- Do things that you love to do. I’ve often heard the advice to “keep busy” on the fertility journey, especially during the two-week-wait and other times of stress. This is great advice, but I also believe that just keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy isn’t enough. What you do matters too. What do you love to do most? What makes your heart sing? Do more of that. Then you don’t feel like you’re just passing the time. It becomes your wonderful time for YOU, to reconnect with your deepest self.
- Spend time with your partner that doesn’t involve trying for a baby. This journey can overtake your life and can become the only thing you and your partner talk about. It’s easy to get disconnected. If you plan a date day or a date night every once in a while where you do the activities together that you enjoy, and talk about things other than your fertility, that will do wonders for both of your stress levels.
You’ll connect in a refreshing way. You might also remember all the reasons you fell in love and decided to spend your lives together in the first place!
It’s really important to remain connected with your partner during this time. You’re on the fertility journey together, and it’s the kind of thing that can either bring you closer together or drive you apart. You want to be one of the ones where it brings you closer.
Leave a comment below and tell me what helps you manage your stress!
Big love and baby dust to you!
This post is also available in: Arabic