Plenty of blogs will offer stress management techniques like mindfulness meditation and yoga for fertility. Here are a few outside-the-box ideas that will fit even the most hectic TTC lifestyle.
If you’re already stressed out and trying to conceive, the last thing you need to hear is that stress causes infertility -- as if that wouldn’t just stress you out more! Thankfully, despite the misguided advice of people who might tell you just to “relax and let it happen,” stress does not cause infertility. Think about it this way: if our hunter-gatherer ancestors managed to reproduce despite having to worry about being mauled by bears, then stress is, at the very least, not a death sentence for fertility.
With that said, stress can make fertility more difficult. Some doctors estimate it can contribute to up to 30% of infertility issues, but it doesn’t completely board up your fertile window. But before we jump into our favorite tried and true stress management techniques (and don’t worry: you don’t have to bend into unnatural shapes or “quiet your mind” for these), let’s look at why you should really stop putting off your self-care routine.
While stress may not, in itself, cause infertility, that doesn’t mean that it plays no role whatsoever, or can’t make it more difficult to become pregnant. For one, stress causes hormonal changes in your body, affecting your levels of cortisol and epinephrine (which can in turn affect other hormone levels, like testosterone). In one study, women who reported higher levels of stress during IVF treatment released 20% fewer eggs during ovulation, and were also 20% less likely to successfully achieve fertilization.
But while the relationship between stress and fertility is medically a bit complicated, there are a few more obvious ways stress can get in the way of your babymaking efforts.
We’re not going to come right out and say that stress is bad for your sex life. Certain kinds of stress can be good for your sex life -- for example, if your idea of a smoldering evening involves BDSM, outdoor sex or even acrobatic yoga, a little bit of adrenaline might be just the fuel to rev your motor.
However, the kind of stress that TTC couples deal with on a regular basis, from watching your pregnancy test for five minutes waiting for those two blue lines to asking your fertility doctor the hard questions, hardly makes for Letters to Penthouse fodder. It can be hard to get in the mood when you’re worrying about whether you charted your basal temperature correctly, or whether you have much time left on your biological clock. Add the feelings of disappointment, low self esteem and perceived threats to your femininity or manhood that infertility sometimes packs on, and the prospect of sex becomes about as exciting as watching grass grow. On the beach. In the dead of winter.
Of course, frequent intercourse tends to be pretty helpful when you’re trying to conceive, so effective stress management techniques may be one of the best natural fertility boosts you’ll find. Here are a few of our favorites -- and we promise, you don’t have to get into a single downward dog (unless you really want to):
Let’s face it: eating feels good. Unfortunately, emotionally eating isn’t always the best thing to do for your fertility, as it’s very easy to disrupt a balanced, fertility-friendly diet by stress-binging on ice cream. Thankfully, eating healthily, and in a way that keeps your BMI in check, can be a great way to practice mindfulness without having to clear your thoughts (seriously, how do people do that)?
Here’s a fun activity, and you can do it with your significant other: take a trip to the produce aisle of your favorite supermarket, and don’t take a shopping list. Look over each fruit and vegetable and try to think of a creative way to incorporate it into a meal. Walk slowly by the fresh herbs and take a few deep breaths, paying attention to everything you smell.
While in the produce section, you might see something you’ve never tried cooking before, like daikon radish or jicama. Grab your phone to look up ways to use it in a new recipe. Thinking creatively, then cooking a delicious meal -- and, finally, eating a delicious meal -- will all culminate in a nourishing mindfulness experience. Make sure to light a few candles during dinner, skip the bubbly and opt for a nice fruity seltzer for a refreshing, teetotaling evening.
For our dollar, all stress management techniques that end in eating tasty food are the best techniques.
Okay, we promised no downward dog. With that said, does extended puppy pose remind you of anything? How about reclined bound angle? Before you call us pervs, we’re far from the only people who have noticed that certain yoga postures just kind of look like imaginative sex positions.
Don’t believe us? Take a look for yourselves! Do a quick Pinterest search for “yoga” and take note of all the positions you think would be awesome or hilarious (or hilariously awesome) to try in bed. And then try it! It will take some of the pressure off of trying to conceive and bring the fun back into lovemaking. Just remember: some yoga poses are really, really hard and/or downright dangerous, so if you’re a novice yogi, don’t try naked scorpion pose. This stress management technique is all about the laughter and letting loose with your partner. Enlightenment, or even just touching your toes, is strictly optional. So are earth-shattering orgasms, but we suggest you give them the old college try, anyway. The oxytocin spikes you get from orgasm can be powerful stress busters!
Oh, and speaking of orgasms, try exchanging a couple of long, sexy massages before getting bendy with your partner. Yoga, plus laughter, plus massage, plus orgasm equals four stress management techniques all rolled up into one (provided you don’t over-think any of these steps).
Many of the stress management techniques you hear when you’re trying to conceive are the kinds of things we all know we should do, but sort of get annoyed when people remind us to do them: get in a good workout, eat a balanced diet, practice meditation, write down the things you’re grateful for, etc. Of course, when you’re already in a bad mood because you saw yet another BFN (“big fat negative”) and all your high school friends are sending out baby shower invites, these “shoulds” can feel like tall orders.
And that’s totally okay. Take a deep breath. You’re not a superhero, and everyone gets grumpy. Thankfully, showing kindness is one of those stress management techniques it takes literally no effort to do. You don’t have to join the Peace Corps or even make a donation to your local Y. You can simply compliment somebody on his shoes, or call your mom to tell her you love her.
Seriously, that’s it. Teeny tiny. Do one thing like this every day and observe how it makes you feel. You might find it so invigorating it becomes addictive -- and unlike caffeine, this is one addiction you won’t have to keep in check while you’re trying to conceive. Hold the door open for someone behind you. Leave a big tip for your waitstaff. Tell a few friends you’re thinking about them. These little random acts of kindness don’t just reduce stress, but they may actually help you live longer, so keep sending out those good vibes.
While sex is usually great for stress reduction, the pressure to perform on a schedule can do the complete opposite, as many TTC couples know too well. And let’s be real: a lot of conditions need to be met for sex to happen successfully. Erectile tissue (for either sex) needs to get, and stay, erect. Adequate lubrication needs to happen, or you need to reach for your sperm-friendly lube. There’s cleanup involved both before and after. Things can get time-intensive. Sex is great, but sex can be a lot of work!
You know what isn’t a lot of work? Good old-fashioned tongue wrestling. And due to the release of serotonin and suppression of cortisol that happens when you and your lover lock lips, kissing is one of the most effective stress management techniques in any couple’s arsenal.
Have a big work deadline coming up? Commute traffic coming home was a nightmare? They’re about to cancel your favorite new show? Trying to conceive is taking longer than you had originally anticipated? When in doubt, make out.
Not only does sucking face reduce your stress levels, but it can help you bond with your partner and strengthen your relationship. Too often, we think of kissing as something couples do before they start having sex -- great for the time being, but not as fun as the main course. So try to put the fun back into your frenching sessions. Surprise your boo with a lip bite or a quick slip of tongue before they leave for work. Breathe into the nape of your partner’s neck before landing a gentle kiss there.
And here’s the important part: don’t just think of your sexy spit swaps as a preamble to sex. Enjoy them on their own, no pressure!
Think back to your elementary school days, when the luckiest kids had the box of 64 Crayola crayons (complete with the child-safe sharpener in the back). Whether you were that kid or you had a bunch of half-broken Rosearts in a pencil box, coloring was probably one of your favorite parts of the school day. Each picture was an opportunity to express yourself using the powers of Roy. G. Biv.
Luckily, those days no longer need to be relegated to mere memory. Experts have found that coloring is a great way for adults to relieve stress, and you can find adult coloring books in craft stores, drugstores and even grocery stores. While you might opt for the intricate mandala designs found in many adult coloring books, there’s still no reason you can’t grab a kid’s coloring book full of anthropomorphic cars or Disney princesses for a peaceful afternoon with your favorite crayons, colored pencils or markers.
How do you and your partner like to take the load off? Whether it’s a grueling session at the gym or a leisurely nap in the hammock, the most effective stress management techniques can be completely unique to a person (or a couple). We want to know how you find your inner zen! Tweet us @AstroglideTTC to let us know.