Probably every infertile couple has heard it: “Relax! Stress causes infertility.” These words can be very painful to couples who have struggled with infertility for a long time. Still, the advice is good for a different reason—struggling with infertility can itself cause stress, which is just plain bad for your health and your relationship. Life in New York City can be stressful enough so it is helpful to learn the skills to reduce stress so that it does not build up.
While there are studies that show a link between stress and infertility, others show little or no correlation. Yet we’ve all heard the anecdotal stories: as soon as a couple gives up trying to conceive and they adopt, she becomes pregnant. As soon as they accept infertility and embrace being childless, she becomes pregnant.
Yes. It happens. And maybe it will happen to you. But that’s not why I want you to relax. As a counselor, part of my therapy is to help people come to terms with their situation. You may still be working towards fertility, or you may have tried everything and are ready to move on. Wherever you are in the process, there are certain steps you can take to feel more at peace, which will improve your mood, your health, and your life.
Try some of these stress-reducing activities:
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Do something physical together. Dancing or other physical activities can increase the romantic bond, while the physical activity releases hormones that promote feelings of wellbeing.
Get more sleep. Sleep is when our bodies repair themselves (and apparently, more than 80% of women ovulate between midnight and 8am, during the repair process). Sleep helps the body and brain function more optimally, so insufficient sleep is going to decrease your performance at every level.
Enjoy intimacy for the love of each other, not just to have a baby. After a while, the focus on having a baby can make sex seem like a project rather than an act of love. For a while, don’t think about the baby-making part of it, just think about each other.
Do simple de-stressing exercises. Here’s a progressive muscle relaxation technique that helps you relax when you’re feeling noticeably tense. Try it if you have trouble relaxing before bed: Tighten and relax each part of your body, from head to toe. Start with your scalp – tighten and hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Move on to your facial muscles, jaw, neck, and step by step throughout your body. You will feel the tension melt away.
Think about getting a pet. Cats and dogs are affectionate and need exercise. Choose an animal that you both really enjoy and give it some loving. Rescue an animal from the SPCA or other reputable organization and you’ll also have the pleasure of saving an animal’s life.
Eat calming foods. Yes, calming. The nutrients in certain foods can decrease stress and anxiety. Some of these include brazil nuts, fatty fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate (but watch the sugar), turmeric, chamomile, yogurt and other fermented foods (for gut health), and green tea. Good nutrition promotes optimal mental, physical, and psychological health.
Talk to a professional. Sometimes, even if you try all these ways to relax, you can still benefit from talking to a counselor who specializes in helping couples through infertility.
If you live in the New York City area and are struggling with infertility, I’m here to help. Call for a consultation.