Can stress make it harder to get pregnant? Is a question without a definitive answer. There is so much contradicting information available in the public domain. A quick Google search fires back thousands of articles telling us how stress affects fertility, and yet there are scientific studies which both concur and disagree. Stress and its symptoms can be individualistic. For example, there are certain groups of us who are more susceptible to stressful situations and one of the things which can affect this is our health. An ongoing health worry or condition can make an individual more likely to experience stress. And then there’s the reason for the stress in the first place, what is causing it? Can the cause be removed from your life? Or is the fact it’s taking time to fall pregnant, in fact, the cause of your stress?
Whether or not stress makes it harder to get pregnant is highly debated and is best discussed and explored with your doctor. Trying for a baby can be stressful in itself. There’s so much information available, tips and advice, forums, groups, the list is endless. Plus, friends are expecting or have just had babies, naturally making us broody, which also piles on the pressure. But there are certain steps you can take to help combat stress while trying to conceive:
1. Take a break
If trying to conceive is taking over your life, consider taking a break. Sex should form a natural part of a healthy relationship and shouldn’t become a chore. It’s easy to get bogged down into having sex at specific times of the day and having sex so many times in a day. After a while, you and your partner will feel like baby making machines rather than enjoying intimate moments with each other.
Try to have a break for a couple of months, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have sex. Instead, take a break from trying to get pregnant. You never know, taking the regime out of having sex may even help you to conceive.
2. Ignore baby communication
Having a baby is a personal, life-changing journey. There is plenty of good advice available, but equally, there’s a lot of scare stories and old wife’s tales, too. Baby/pregnancy forums and groups can be great sources of advice and ideas, but they can also be consuming. You should make sure you carry on doing the things you enjoy doing in life and make sure not everything is revolving around getting pregnant.
Make time for friends and family. Continue with your hobbies or join a group to take your mind off trying to conceive.
3. Get informed about fertility
Getting pregnant isn’t all down to chance. Approximately 1 in 7 couples in the UK have trouble conceiving. There are many reasons why couples may suffer difficulties, but one possibility is failing to engage in sex during a female’s fertile window. The fertile window depends on the length of your menstrual cycle. The fertile window is the days leading up to an egg being released from the ovary, known as ovulation. Having sex during this time increases the chance of getting pregnant. You will be most fertile in the three days leading up to ovulation, but the window is short, up to 24 hours after ovulation and you will no longer be able to get pregnant. Therefore, it is a myth that a woman can get pregnant at any time.
You can gain a greater insight into your hormone levels through a simple home finger-prick blood test, which is sent to a laboratory for scientific analysis. The test includes the following key fertility hormones, giving you a good understanding of your reproductive health:
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinising hormone (LH)
- Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Thyroxine (T4)
Forth also offers a 21 day progesterone test which confirms if you have ovulated.
Practice some relaxation techniques to help relieve any tension you may have. Some good examples include:
- Breathing techniques
These activities can help reduce the production of stress hormones by the body which, ultimately, will aid conception. Studies have shown that many relaxation techniques can reduce the stress and anxiety brought on by daily life and thus, improves quality of life for individuals who partake in it. You may even want to engage in some of these techniques with your partner.
5. Take care of your body
Pregnancy can put great strain on your body, so you should make sure it is ready for when you do conceive. Here are some changes you should consider before getting pregnant:
- Quit smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- A healthy, balanced diet
- Engage in regular exercise
- Take folic acid supplements
It is important to remember everyone is different and the way you react to stress may be different to someone else. If you feel that your stress is getting on top of you or it’s taking over your life, you should visit your doctor for advice. They will also be able to offer you and your partner fertility advice.
To find out more about fertility, you can download this free ‘Understanding Fertility’ report from Raconteur here:
Fertility Coalition. (2018). Getting the Timing Right. Available at: https://www.yourfertility.org.au/everyone/timing
O’Keefe, L, M et al. (2016). Positive Lifestyle Changes Around the Time of Pregnancy: A Cross-Sectional Study. BMJ Open: 6.
Tiplady, S et al. (2013). Home Ovulation Tests and Stress in Women Trying to Conceive: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Human Reproduction: 28(1), pp 138-151.
Varvogli, L and Darviri, C. (2011). Stress Management Techniques: Evidence-Based Procedures that Reduce Stress and Promote Health. Health Science Journal: 5(2), pp 74-89.