What is stress?
Stress is a physiological response to a threat. This means that some people may not register to feel emotionally stressed, but the body may still respond to a perceived stressor. When a person is stressed, the body goes into fight or flight mode.
Chicken or the egg?
Research has found that women experiencing infertility report higher levels of anxiety and stress. However, does stress lead to infertility? Or does infertility lead to stress? The answer can be a little bit of both. One study found that women who had elevated levels of alpha-amylase, the stress enzyme, took about 29% longer to get pregnant. And other research has found that lowering stress levels may help infertile women get pregnant.
It’s not that easy
Tackling stress is more challenging than just telling women not to worry. Managing stress well takes concerted effort and engagement in coping strategies. Some popular stress management techniques include meditation, regular exercise, journaling, sharing with friends, doing yoga, or going on walks.
Find others to connect with
Many women find a significant source of comfort in joining a support group. Support groups provide a communal space for participants to share struggles, challenges, or fears. Many women find comfort in learning that others are going through similar difficulties. The result is often stress reduction.
What else can I do?
There is a significant link between physical and mental health. To that end, both partners should adopt as many healthy lifestyle habits as possible. Engage in moderate exercise a few times a week and sleep at least 7-8 hours a night. Couples should also follow a diet full of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
What to do during fertility treatment
Going through fertility treatment can make the journey of getting pregnant even more stressful. Couples going through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other fertility treatments may report even higher levels of distress. If needed, find a therapist or counselor who can help with processing feelings and learning good stress coping techniques. To find out more about infertility, speak with a fertility specialist.