Taking a Step Back From Your Fertility Journey
“The DESIRE to have a child is one of the most powerful instincts we identify with. Our whole BEING is geared towards reproduction.”
Founder of Fertility Coaching Switzerland
If you’ve been trying for any length of time to fall pregnant, you may have had to endure a few comments about how you should just relax and stop worrying about it already. Everyone has heard of someone who had all but given up their quest for a child after years of trying, or even adopted, only to fall pregnant the very next month.
For a long time, popular wisdom has held that “trying too hard” is at least partly to blame when couples have difficulty conceiving. Research released in the Human Reproduction journal has shown that women with a certain biomarker for stress had reduced fertility. Presence of alpha-amylase in their saliva meant the women took almost 30 per cent longer to fall pregnant than those who didn’t.
Women may enter into a very peculiar, almost superstitious psychological state after a long bout of trying to conceive without success. It may start to feel like having a baby is nothing short of miraculous, a trick of luck or fate that they would do anything to learn how to achieve. But this attitude can backfire.
Enter the irony of a very vicious circle — the more you stress, the less chance you have of conceiving, and the longer you go without conceiving, the more you stress. Pressure all around demands that you take it easy, but this merely makes you stress about the fact that you can’t.
Margareta D. Pisarska is the co-director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and she believes that the research on whether stress can reduce your fertility or not is mixed and far from conclusive. This comes as no surprise to those of us who believe fertility to be an intricate, idiosyncratic, and sometimes messy business. While some studies have shown that couples are often less stressed and in a better frame of mind the month just before they conceive, there is as yet very little understanding about why this happens.
Modern medicine is only recently loosening its rather mechanistic view on fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth to concede to the fact that in some ways, the mysteries of conception are as hidden from us as ever. “Fertility” as a concept is often reduced to numbers, or to tests that reveal the blood levels of certain hormones. But these are as yet rudimentary tools to understanding one of the most complex functions of the human body — reproduction.
A mother does not conceive in a vacuum; rather, her child is an expression of her hopes, desires, and fears. It is the genetic and anatomical expression of the relationship she has with the father, with herself, and with life. It would stand to reason that the entire being of a woman is involved in the creation of a new life and not merely the few hormones we know are associated with fertility.
Does stress reduce your fertility rate? The answer as yet is murky. Some studies have found results that suggest it does and others seem to suggest that unless you are talking about stress on the scale of natural disaster or civil war, fertility rates are more or less robust.
What is clear is that psychologically, dealing with infertility can be a trying time, and reducing your negative emotions around the issue is worthwhile in and of itself. For so many women, their ability (or inability) to conceive quickly becomes entangled with every area of their lives. Disappointments and expectations that were never previously acknowledged come to the fore and make themselves known. Tackling questions of your own mortality, what it means to be a parent, your sense of purpose in life, the state of your relationships, and complex body issues all come into play during pregnancy, and even more so when fertility is compromised.
Whatever your fertility journey, take the time to step back from the stress and pressure of having to conceive. Dealing with fertility problems can be a perfect time to stop and reassess goals, and to clarify what is really important to you. The available research on the topic seems to suggest that something special happens when women let go and release themselves from the pressure to have a baby. Although scientists may not yet understand the intricacies of fertility, everyone can commit to being more present and accepting of where they are on their journeys, wherever that is.
The wave of excitement about newly announced pregnancies, newborns, and subsequent pregnancies are going around the world. Each of us has at least a sibling, friend, neighbour or colleague who is posting pictures or news of their pregnant bodies or babies on social media on a daily basis.
What looks like the most simple and natural way of becoming parents can become disheartening when a positive result takes longer than expected, leading to a stressful, uncertain, and anxious time for those desiring to be parents. So, how do we truly relax on the roller-coaster ride to pregnancy, and how can we stay calm and peaceful when all our friends seem to fall pregnant so easily?
Make the whole process a little easier and adopt one (or all three!) of the following tips:
1. No Google-ing please! By now, you’re most likely a female expert on any fertility related topic. We know how it is and we do understand. Google is a great avenue to discover any newly opened, amazing dinner places or your next vacation destination, but leave the medical advice out of your searches. Instead, focus your energy on finding resources that will lead you in the right direction.
2. Breathe! Make yourself comfortable and uncross your arms and legs. Take a deep breath in through your nose and count from one to four, stop for a moment, and then breathe out through your nose and count from one to seven. Make sure that your stomach is inflating up and down to ensure plenty of that oxygen is reaching your reproductive organs.
3. Be passionate! Choose one or two things that you love and feel passionate about doing, then ensure that you bring plenty of them into your everyday life. Maybe you always wanted to write a recipe book? Or play the piano? Or go on an adventure trip? Have a look at your bucket list and start today!
There is a wide range of self-help tools to improve your emotional well-being, reduce stress, and replace anxiety by calmness. Follow us on Facebook
(www.facebook.com/fertilityasia) to find out more.
Bouchez, Collette. “Doctors offer insights on how daily stress can disrupt fertility — and how relaxation can help.” Stress and Infertility. 2014. 23 November 2014 <http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/features/infertility-stress>.
Lynch, C.D., et al. “Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study — the LIFE study.” Human Reproduction 29:5 (2014): 160-173.
This article is first published in the A Gift From Heaven book by Tanja Faessler-Moro.
Tanja Faessler-Moro is a certified Fertility Coach, Consulting Hypnotist, Life Coach, and HypnoBirthing Practitioner. She founded Fertility Coaching in Singapore in 2012 to empower clients with options and to help them make informed decisions. After a successful career in banking as a manager and coach, Tanja became a fertility coach and counsellor after she gave birth to two sons. She has grown her experience through her diverse network with experts in the field of medicine and alternative therapies. Most importantly, Tanja provides an insider’s approach to the often-challenging roadblocks present in conquering fertility challenges.
Tanja works with individuals and couples by taking into consideration her client’s emotional and mental well-being, which is paramount to her. Clients who seek support from Tanja are usually dealing with some of the following challenges:
• How to successfully manage a fertility “roller coaster” and regain life quality
• How to replace fears and anxieties by relaxation during the fertility journey
• How to undergo fertility treatments and stay mentally and emotionally calm and relaxed throughout the process
• How to cope with early pregnancy challenges and prepare for a calm and safe birth
• How to cope with grief and loss after a miscarriage or a stillbirth