Health 101: Stress and Fertility

How can I reduce stress related to infertility?

Anything that helps you relax and unwind -- catching up on the latest celeb tabloids over a pedicure, meeting your best friends for brunch and shopping -- is certainly a step in the right direction. But certain tricks are especially beneficial for women dealing with trying-to-conceive-related stress, says Robert A. Greene, MD, coauthor of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility.

  • Strike a warrior pose. "If you're not the type to sit and meditate for an hour every day, yoga may be the next best thing," says Dr. Greene, who recommends hatha yoga, a style that focuses on breathing and movement without concentrating directly on meditation. Taking a yoga class or popping in a DVD a couple of times a week can have a huge impact on lowering stress hormone levels that can mess with fertility.
  • Conk out earlier. Interesting fact: More than 80 percent of women ovulate between midnight and 8 a.m., so getting too little sleep -- and the hormonal imbalances this causes -- can have a surprising impact on conception. Sleep is super-regenerative and gives your body a chance to relax and recover from a taxing day. While sleep needs vary from person to person, if you tend to wake up and still feel tired, or feel like you're running on empty as the day drags on, chances are you're not getting enough.
  • Have sex -- but not the babymaking kind. As fertility-related stress takes its toll on you and your partner, it's common for your sex life to start feeling more like a science project. Do it when you're not ovulating -- just for the fun and intimacy.
  • Do this 10-minute stress Rx. Called progressive muscle relaxation, this exercise involves tightening and relaxing every part of your body from head to toe. Furrow your forehead for five seconds, then relax your face for five seconds. Then wrinkle your nose for five seconds, and relax it for five seconds. Do the same with your jaw, and so on, for 10 minutes, or more if you have time. "This helps you to physically feel what your body is like when it's tense versus when it's relaxed," says Dr. Domar.
  • Scribble it down. Dr. Greene is a big fan of journaling to zap stress. "Putting your worries on paper is one of the best ways to get perspective and feel like you're more in control of your problems," he says. Writing in a journal regularly, even for just a few minutes a day, can help you feel more positive and less anxious about whatever's bothering you.
  • Talk to a pro. If you still feel like you can't get your stress in check, or tend to be prone to extended bouts of anxiety or feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or total ambivalence that won't go away, consider seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist who is experienced with infertility patients. Find one through Getting your emotional health on track is a must for a healthy pregnancy and beyond.

Sources: Alice Domar, PhD, executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF in Boston, Massachusetts, and author of Conquering Infertility; Robert A. Greene, MD, co-author of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility

Copyright © 2008 Meredith Corporation.

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