If you’re trying to conceive (TTC), you may have heard some of these familiar phrases: Just relax. You shouldn’t stress about it. Um. Real talk: knowing how to relax when TTC is not as simple as following a command.
In fact, these supposedly harmless pointers can make matters worse. Because, in one of life’s greatest ironies, the more someone tells you to relax, the harder it is to do. It’s a vicious cycle.
Before we go any further:
This is hard. So let’s have this conversation kindly. Let’s take out the prescriptions and the shoulds and the why haven’t yous. Let’s center you and your mental health. Deal?
Right now, it can feel like your whole world revolves around this one thing. Sex may feel as though it’s become about one thing and one thing only.
Or you’re having IVF treatment, which is rated by some patients as the most stressful thing they’ve ever been through.
And while all this is going on, everyone around you seems to be making pregnancy announcements. Urgh.
Guess what? One in six couples don’t get pregnant as soon as they’d hoped. So you’re seriously not alone in this.
Can being stressed stop you getting pregnant?
So does stress affect conception? It may be one of the many factors involved in getting pregnant—but it’s complicated.
As this study tells us, moderate daily stress doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on conceiving. More extreme stress, on the other hand, does have a relationship with getting pregnant.
But there are all sorts of reasons why conception doesn’t happen, from endometriosis to sperm and egg troubles, to untreated STIs, to just the way your uterus is.
So that’s why we have to be super nuanced when we talk about stress and pregnancy. While stress can be a factor (or a factor that contributes to other factors), simply learning to be calm isn’t a catchall solution.
Stress and getting pregnant
Stress impacts our bodies in so many complicated ways. In and of itself, it’s not a problem.
In fact, feeling stressed can be incredibly useful.
When we’re stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. And this does things like raising our blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate—all very useful if you’re looking to run from a predator or flee a burning building.
The problem is, if that stress response sticks around long enough, it can impact your health. Some of the impacts of long term stress are:
- Aches and pains
- Headaches and dizziness
- Muscle tension
- Stomach issues
- High blood pressure
And importantly for this discussion, stress can make you feel like sex is the last thing you want to do.
Also, stress can make the whole self-care thing that much harder to focus on. Smoking, drinking, and not getting the nutrition you need all increase the risk of conception struggles. (Not to beat yourself up for any of this, but to know that it could be a factor.)
What’s more, if you’ve suffered a miscarriage, the idea of TTC can be loaded with all sorts of complex (completely legitimate) emotions.
It can also put stress on relationships which makes things even more difficult.
And here comes that vicious cycle again: the stress of TTC can cause more stress.
How to relax when trying to get pregnant
Before we get going here, two things:
- None of this is your fault. We’ll say it again: nothing to do with any of this is your fault.
- More than anything else, the important thing is to look after your own mental health. That’s what matters. Not because you’re TTC. But because your mental health matters. So when we talk about ways to relax, that’s the goal above everything else.
You know your body. And if you’re in a relationship, you know that relationship. You do what works for you.
So, here’s what you can try to help you de-stress when you’re TTC:
Go for a checkup with your doctor if you haven’t done so already. If there are courses of treatment that can help, you can get started on them. That alone can release some of the stress from the situation.
Book a counseling session. You might want to try therapy on your own or with a partner. (If you have any conflict with a friend or family member, you may want to explore therapy with them too.) Going to therapy can help you organize the confusing feelings that are tied into TTC and boost your overall mental health.
Have good sex. Okay. Hear us out here. Make sex about enjoying yourself. Sex, in and of itself, can be a great stress reliever. (It can also be insanely stressful for so many reasons and it’s definitely not your fault if it’s not feeling good right now.) Toys can help. We’ll just leave that there.
Give meditation a go. Meditation has become a bit of a buzzword in wellness circles. Suddenly everyone is meditating. And they all seem to know how. So firstly, what is it? Basically, it’s about calming your thoughts and checking in with yourself without judgement. There’s no one way to meditate—guided, silent, to music, long, short, inside, outside. The point is that you get to be with yourself for a bit. If you want to try it out, here’s a very simple meditation exercise to test the waters:
- Set a timer. Maybe just start with five minutes.
- Sit in a place and way that feels comfortable.
- Close your eyes, if that feels comfortable to you.
- Turn your attention to your breath. That’s your focus.
- It’s normal for your mind to wander. Just bring it back to your breath. Sometimes it helps to have a mantra (something simple like I am enough) to think of whenever your mind drifts.
- When your timer goes off, open your eyes if they are closed. Take three deep breaths. Kindly go about your day.
Get into a downward-facing dog. Connecting movement to breath—that’s the point here. Yoga works. We know, it can sometimes feel inaccessible because it’s made out to be this fancy thing that super fancy people do. It’s not. There are so many different styles that there truly is something for everyone. You can choose to join a class or practice at home. (The internet is filled with resources.)
Massage. Okay, now it’s not a luxury; it’s an emergency. And if money is tight, call on a friend or partner.
Do things that you love. See friends. Read books. Walk in nature. Take stock of what makes you feel good and keep doing it.
TTC just brings up so much. It can be super stressful and may leave you doubting the whole journey you’re on.
And it’s all so darn isolating. It can just feel so impossible to talk to anyone—including your partner—about how you’re really feeling about all of this.
While the topic is complicated, one thing is not: you don’t have to do it alone. That’s what Peanut is for.
It’s about time that we normalized the conversation around how complicated getting and staying pregnant can be.
And listen to us when we say:
Your wellbeing is first and foremost. Take care.