Stress and Getting Pregnant

The Top 10 Things You Need To Know

Stress and pregnancy go hand in hand. Heck, stress and living life go hand in hand! While some stress is healthy, and actually a helpful motivator to us, too much can send us into a mental (and sometimes physical) tailspin.

Last night, on the Egg Whisperer Show, I spoke with Dr. Allen who is a fertility psychologist about this very topic. We covered how she defines stress, what it may mean for pregnancy, and ways to reduce it in your life.

If you haven’t watched the show here’s the link to do so. For me, even hearing Dr. Allen talk was like a 30 minute meditation!

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Before I get into my top 10 list of things you need to know from the show, I wanted to touch on two of my favorite parts.

I particularly liked her perspective on something I hear from patients time and again. “I want to get pregnant naturally”.

Dr. Allen’s response was more perfect than any I’ve heard, and one I hope will bring you peace of mind should this be something you desire too.

“It still takes all of the natural miracles to become pregnant.

With fertility treatment, and all it entails you’re simply facilitating a natural process to happen.

Nobody can force an egg to fertilize or make an embryo grow and divide.

Only nature can make an embryo attach.”

Another pearl of wisdom from her related to this was the importance of word selection when you talk about your own fertility story.

Consider using the word, “I choose” vs. “I have to” when describing your fertility plan.

“I choose to go through IVF to get pregnant” vs “I have to…”

One automatically puts you in control and reflects the beauty of the choice you’re making. Stop and give yourself credit for all of the intentional action you’re taking!

To Recap The Show and 10 Things You Need To Know:

1. Understanding Stress:

It’s complicated. What started as a chemical response in our brains to initiate a “fight or flight” response in our bodies to avoid imminent threats (like being chased by a wild animal) has evolved to less life threatening mental stresses. We often worry about things like a deadline at work, things in the past that didn’t go well, or think about the future and stress about the unknowns, like if we’ll be able to have children.

Ultimately it’s important to remember that not all stress is bad. At healthy levels, it can serve as a motivator to take action.

We want stress, just at the optimal level. It’s when you go past it that it becomes not so good.

So how do you know if you’re beyond your optimal level? Pay attention to your mental state and your body. You know your body better than anyone. Listen to it, and take measures for self-care.

2. Determining If You’re Stressed:

The simple question to ask yourself: Is this getting in my way of living a high quality of life?

Maybe you can feel it through your body responses or mental state. Stress can elicit things like heart palpitations, irritable behavior, or make it difficult to have clear and coherent thoughts.

3. Stress & Pregnancy:

Stress can affect the part of your brain (the hypothalamus) that regulates your hormones. Certainly there’s no hard and fast rule as to how stress may impact your chances of conceiving, but if you feel like your quality of life is compromised because of stress, then work to fix that first.

Dr. Allen reminds us that telling someone who is preparing for pregnancy to reduce stress is in itself stressful! Rather, think about your quality of life. Is it where it should be? Are you taking care of yourself? Only when the answer to these questions is “yes” can you truly be prepared for pregnancy.

4. Biggest Stressors As A Fertility Patient:

If you’re going through IVF maybe you can attest to these, or if you’re preparing for it, hopefully this helps you think through and proactively manage areas that may cause stress. Regardless of what’s causing you stress there’s one thing we all need and that’s a support network. Find your support, find your team and lean on them as this is not a road to walk alone!

  • It’s expensive: For some people, an option like Freeze & Share may be worth considering.
  • Time: IVF can be time intensive, and add an extra logistical challenge to your day. Prepare for that. Some women take time off work, others tell those they work with what’s going on so they can fill in when you’re away.
  • Fear of the unknown: fear is a powerful emotion and is often the source of stress as a fertility patient. We want to know the outcome. We want to control what happens. But we can’t. We can only do our best to prepare and put ourselves in the best position to have a positive outcome.

5. How to Cope Over the Holidays:

The holidays are complicated. It may be a joyful time, but it may also be a difficult time for a host of reasons. Whatever they are, give yourself the time and space you need. If you’re preparing for pregnancy and feeling discouraged and not wanting to be around family, give yourself an out to not have to be at every event. Take care of yourself first!

If you’re considering IVF and you have concerns about getting time off from work, the holidays may be a sensible and suitable option for you to go through treatment.

Still others may prefer to look to the New Year and start fresh with plans for pregnancy then, including IVF treatments. This is a choice only you can make.

6. Activities To Help With Stress:

As you’ve likely heard before, and will continue to read about, there are some tried and true activities to reduce stress. Do them all, do one, or find any combination that works best for you!

Yoga, acupuncture, or a salt float are great starts! Some additional thoughts are in 7–10 below.

7. Nutrition:

  • Choose healthy, non-processed foods as what you eat may impact your mood. Again, pay attention to your body on this one! The intent is not to stress yourself out by feeling bad about your food choices, but to be mindful of them.
  • Consider adding quality fish oil to your routine as it has anti-inflammatory properties.

8. Apps that Help with Staying Calm and Reducing Stress:

  • Ferticalm: Provides a variety of more than 500 custom coping options for over 50 specific situations which have the potential to cause distress throughout the family building journey.
  • Circle and Bloom: Fertility Meditation Program
  • Talkspace: Online Therapy with a Licensed Therapist
  • Headspace: Meditation made simple
  • Calm: Meditation to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier

9. Grab a Helpful Book:

Dr. Alice Domar, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF.

She established the first ever Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health as well as the very first Mind/Body Program for Fertility.

She’s written several books which you can learn more about here.

10. Laughter as the Best Medicine.

A little comedy never hurt anyone, right? This light-hearted comedy is everything: How to Buy a Baby. If the show is as funny as the trailer, we’re all in for a treat!

Finally, I’ll leave you with photo proof of the laughter we shared on our show last night. Yes, even talking about stress can be funny!

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As always, I want to get to know you! Get in touch via social media. Tune into my show which airs every Wednesday live on Facebook and Youtube at 5PM PST. I always take questions in advance, and live while on-air.

Please share this with others that may find it useful, and take care of yourself!

Fertility Doctor, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Egg Whisperer:

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