How to Get Pregnant… If You Have Too Much Stress in Your Life
Some experts believe one of the effects of stress is disruption in fertility. Here are tips on how to get pregnant and some ideas for stress relief from BabyZone.
Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, says that stress can influence fertility by changing when ovulation occurs. Stress can delay ovulation, create irregular cycles, and on occasion, if severe, it can prevent a woman from ovulating. So it’s important to know when—or if—you ovulate.
To pinpoint your egg’s release, starting five days before ovulation, you should notice a change in your cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) from sticky and opaque to thin and slippery “fertile mucus.” You can also measure your first morning temperature over the course of your cycle.
Schedule a Preconception Checkup
Your preconception checkup is a chance to address health issues prior to pregnancy. And this includes stress, anxiety, and worry. Besides offering tips for how to reduce stress, your doctor might refer you to a psychotherapist or counselor for “talk therapy” or possibly refer you for testing to check levels of reproductive and stress hormones.
Relax to Enhance
While some evidence suggests that increased stress can disrupt ovulation and fertility, the flip side is that relaxation and reduced stress may be actually enhance your fertility. Some experts claim that stress reduction may enhance proteins within the uterine lining that are involved in implantation. Relaxation and reduced stress can also increase blood flow to the uterus, another aid for conception.
Let’s explore how to start reducing your stress…
First, What’s Stressing You Out?
Make a list of every worry you have, no matter how minor. No one else needs to see this list, so let it all out (writing down all your “stressors” may be a stress-relieving act in itself). Once you’re done, go back through the list and see what common themes emerge. Put the list aside for a few hours and then look at it again. Next to list of your worries, write down some “action steps,” practical things you can do to lessen the stress.
One of the most effective ways to bring a little more calm and balance into your life is yoga. Long recognized as an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety, yoga for fertility focuses on improving blood flow and circulation to the low back, hips, groins, and pelvis, to aid in healthier reproductive function. Focused breathing during yoga can calm the nervous system and help lower stress hormones.
According to actress Brenda Strong, founder of Strong Yoga4Fertility, learning to listen to the body’s natural rhythms through yoga and breathing can bring a deep sense of peace and connection. (Strong shares her secrets of yoga for fertility and favorite poses.)
One of the most turned-to tricks of stress reduction is positive visualization, the art of thinking good thoughts about the future. Visualize yourself walking through a sunny park pushing a baby carriage, if that’s your happy place and helps you feel less stressed.
Positive visualization can also help you work out solutions to specific situations. Having a problem with your boss? Take time to walk through step by step how you can resolve the issue in a positive way. When you feel more prepared and ready for stressful situations (and ready with what you will do and say to diffuse the situation), it can help reduce the body’s stress response.
Exercise of all types helps your body release endorphins, those “feel good” neurotransmitters that make pain and stress seem a million miles away. If your stress is coupled with anxiety and depression, exercise can help you think more clearly by improving mood and giving your physical energy levels a boost.
Been a while since you last saw the inside of a gym? Skip the health club for now and focus your efforts on outdoor physical activity. Go for a hike or walk along a nearby nature trail or take your bike out for a spin along a country road. Studies have shown exercising outside for as little as five minutes is more effective as improving mood and lifting depression than indoor activity.
Start a Journal
From keeping a diary to blogging, writing down your thoughts can be a very effective way to reduce stress. For many people, seeing their worries in word form helps to release the “power” of negative thoughts. So pick up a pen (or get to your keyboard) and start writing. You can write a blow-by-blow account of your horrible day (and hopefully see that it wasn’t so horrible), list things you are grateful for in your life, jot down a funny or poignant memory, or craft poems about your cat. There really is no “right way” to journal—the point is to find relief from stress through self-expression.
Say Yes to Massage
Massage loosens tight muscles and increases blood flow, two powerful triggers for enhanced feelings of well-being and calm. Many people admit to enjoying massage because it often involves caring and comfort from another person. Make an appointment with a licensed massage therapist, but give massage a try at home too. When used as a part of sexual foreplay (complete with candles, aromatic massage oils, and soothing music), couples may find that it is a relaxing way to keep conception efforts from becoming strained and robotic.
Take a Deep Breath
“When you’re taking long, deep breaths, you interrupt the physiological response of anxiety, which is to breathe shallowly,” says Dr. Douglas A. Jones, a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania. By breaking the stress “pathway,” you are giving your body a little breathing room to calm down.
The easiest way to take a true deep breath is to stand with your hands over your belly. As you breathe, focus on taking in enough air to first make your belly bulge and then fill your chest. Exhale the air in your belly and then your chest. Breathe slowly in and out several times. You can pair deep breathing with meditation and positive visualization to stimulate even greater relaxation.
Eat Comfort Foods in Moderation
Eating high-calorie favorites such as mac and cheese and meat and potatoes may actually make you feel less stressed out. According to a University of California San Francisco study, calorie-laden comfort foods appear to somehow shut off the stress cycle, acting as a kind override button for the body’s fight or flight response (after all, who wants to run away from a slice of cheesecake?).
But too much of a good thing may end up being a detriment to your fertility. As you cut down on stress, you don’t want to bulk up on extra weight. Being overweight can disrupt ovulation and lead to health problems during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes. So keep portions small and follow your meal with a stress-busting walk.
There is some evidence that suggests acupuncture does work to improve fertility by reducing stress. Placing needles along points on the body’s energy axis, acupuncture is believed to offset the damaging effects of stress through the stimulation of beta-endorphins. These powerful neurotransmitters allow women to feel more relaxed, reducing the effects of fight-or-flight hormones, which in turn, helps to restore balance to follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. It may too much or too little FSH that interferes with the normal release of eggs during ovulation.
Get More Zzzzs
When you toss and turn all night, disrupted sleep triggers the body to continue pumping out stress hormones. In turn, this may thwart the body’s production of DHEA, an important building block for sex hormones. (DHEA and other hormones are often produced during sleep.)
To increase sleep, set a bedtime and stick to it, starting the unwinding process a few hours before light’s out. Take a relaxing bath, listen to soothing music, meditate. Avoid drinking alcohol, coffee, or soda, and eating a heavy meal—all triggers that may cause you to lose precious shut-eye.
If stress and anxiety stem from a major event, such as a miscarriage or the death of a close friend or family member, it is a good idea to investigate therapy or counseling as a way to help you cope. Because you are gearing up to conceive, anxiety-reducing medications may not be suitable, so look for psychotherapists and counselors who offer “talk therapy” as the first line of treatment. Your doctor can provide a referral.
Meditation can help you positively focus your thoughts, a powerful way to leave worry behind. If you’ve never meditated before, Thomas Crum, author of Three Deep Breaths, gives a simple technique for relaxation through meditation:
Start by practicing deep breathing. Once you feel comfortable, use the three-deep-breath strategy. For the first breath, the Centering Breath, reenergize by doing one deep, calming breath. For the second breath, or the Possibility Breath, think of what you want to be, for instance a good mother, more relaxed, more confident. Finally, with the last breath, or the Discovery Breath, think about all of the possibilities in your life, what your new little one will be like, whether she’ll have your eyes, whether he’ll have your taste in music….
Is It Something Besides Stress?
Stress may play a role in thwarting your conception plans, but don’t overlook other clues your body may giving off about the state of your reproductive health. Are your periods lighter or heavier than usual? Are your cycles erratic or very short (less than 22 days)? Do you have bad premenstrual cramps?
If you and your partner have tried unsuccessfully for at six months, it’s probably time to go back to the doctor for another checkup. Expect a hormonal profile for you (to measure hormone levels needed for ovulation) and a sperm test for your partner. Your doctor may also order an ultrasound scan of your reproductive organs.
Now Tackle Your Partner’s Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress may interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm, leading to decreased sexual function—as one study found, those who experienced more than two recent stressful life events were more likely to have decreased semen quality. And in research published in the journal Human Reproduction, doctors compared pregnancy rates in couples who reported being stressed and those who did not. Pregnancy was much more likely to occur during months when couples reported feeling “good”—happy and relaxed. It was less likely to occur during the months they reported feeling tense or anxious.
Learn How to Handle Stress
Learning how to get a handle on stress is important as you try to conceive, not only for your fertility, but for the health of your future pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, moms who experience chronic stress during pregnancy may be putting their babies at higher risk for preterm birth and low birth weight. So when you finally see that positive sign on the pregnancy test, don’t stress out! For a happier, healthier nine months, keep putting into practice all the relaxation techniques you picked up on the road to conception.
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