The holidays are a hectic time of year for almost everyone. Between getting up early to hit up a holiday sale, budgeting for gift shopping and dealing with work stress – not to mention seasonal affective disorder that can accompany the shorter days – the beginning of winter can shoot your cortisol through the roof. And that’s if you’re not trying to conceive.
If you are trying to get pregnant, this time of year can be especially tough. The increased family time can cause feelings of anxiety as relatives pelt you with questions about when you’ll be adding another stocking to the mantelpiece. Seeing other friends and family members shop for their newborns can sometimes cause feelings of bitterness and impatience if you’ve been seeing a lot of negative pregnancy tests. In short, a season of togetherness can sometimes make you feel very lonely.
I know that this time of year can be rough on many of the patients who come through my fertility clinic, and here’s the advice I give them on surviving the holiday season while trying to conceive:
Stress is bad, but we all have it and it’s often unavoidable! Telling someone not to be stressed and that they will conceive once they are no longer stressed about it can be a very frustrating comment to hear. It is impossible to live your life without stress; however, it is true that reducing stress can affect fertility in a positive way.
Even though it may not directly correlate with fertility, it is a known fact that stress can affect sexual function, erection and ejaculation, and it can significantly decrease libido. There are many stress reduction techniques that promote a healthy lifestyle.
The best recommendation that I have for reducing stress is meditation. Learning how to control one’s mind and meditating on a regular basis can definitely reduce stress. Yoga can also be an excellent stress reducer -- however, hot yoga is not recommended for either men or women trying to conceive. I often suggest patients find a healthy activity they enjoy and be diligent about maintaining it, in order to eliminate or reduce their stress level.
Exercise is excellent for everyone, as long as it’s in appropriate amounts. Moderate exercise has been shown to be excellent for both men and women, especially when it helps them achieve their ideal body weight. Additionally, the endorphins that are released during exercise are good for overall wellbeing and also for many people’s mental states.
It can be a good release of stress, especially during a very difficult time -- but too much of a good thing can also be harmful. Over-exercising, especially for women, has been shown to throw off the brain’s balance of releasing hormones and can stop the menstrual cycle for many women. Many professional athletes actually lose the ability to have normal menstrual cycles due to over-exercise, and this is not healthy or ideal for a woman who is trying to conceive.
If it’s not too cold outside, put on a warm coat, hat and mittens and take a brisk stroll around your neighborhood, looking at all the wonderful holiday decorations. Or take advantage of holiday deals at your local gym and join a spin class – this is a great low-impact exercise that can help you make new friends and have fun while working up a good sweat!
One way the holidays can make your TTC journey more difficult is by encouraging overeating. Maintaining a healthy BMI – neither overweight nor underweight – is an important aspect of maintaining optimal fertility for both men and women. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional piece of pecan pie in moderation, make sure you’re eating reasonable portions and try to keep a healthy weight throughout the season.
While trying to conceive can be a difficult time if you’re not seeing the results you wanted in the time frame you were hoping for, try your best not to take it out on yourself. If you’re struggling to conceive, you’re not alone – nearly 20% of couples fail to conceive after six months of trying, and the stress that piles on can only make it more difficult to achieve your goal of growing your family.
If trying to conceive starts to feel more like a chore, try taking a step back to appreciate your partner and the togetherness that makes conception possible. If scheduled sex becomes uncomfortable, you can always add a sperm-friendly lubricant to your routine, like Astroglide TTC, which is formulated to be compatible with sperm, oocytes and embryos.
How are you planning surviving the holidays while trying to conceive? Let us know on Twitter @AstroglideTTC!
Images are for illustrative purposes only.