Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stress And Infertility

How many times have we heard "Just relax, it will happen" and have felt the urge to smack that person? Well, for me, there were too many instances than I could count. When you're struggling to conceive, naturally or via the help of an infertility clinic, stress just becomes a big part of the whole equation. I don't see how you can possibly avoid it when each month hinges on that evil HPT to tell us whether we've finally done it.

A new study shows that apparently there is a direct correlation between stress and one's chances of conception. Women who had high levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase (a biological indicator for stress) were 12 % less likely to conceive each month than those who had low levels of the enzyme. In fact, even low levels of the enzyme were indicative of hampering one's chances to get a BFP. I'm not sure how statistically significant the result of this study is, but it's certainly worth taking notice.

Statistics are all well and good, but when practically all women who suffer from IF seem to be Type-A, managing and accepting stress becomes a great challenge. We just seem to be surrounded by things and people that remind us of our struggles and our pain. Stress, at that point, almost becomes a nefarious coping mechanism. It's difficult to even make time to find outlets to relieve our stress, but if we can finally look at stress relief as yet another tool to help us conceive, perhaps we won't see it as such a futile exercise. I don't think that being stress-free will be the magical bullet that will finally allow you to conceive, but in the spirit of coping with IF in the most ideal way possible, finding ways to reduce your stress is worthwhile.

Some fertility clinics are better than others at providing stress reduction guidance. Whether you are able to tap into the resources offered by your clinic, or you're just going to research it on your own, there are numerous ways that you can relieve some of the tension and anxiety that's eating at you (and at your fertility). For one, yoga and meditation. The ability to breath and reconnect with your body will have a long term benefit (even when you finally do have kids) when coping with stress. As I've suggested before, seeking therapy is essential when you're unable to get out of your own head. A third party perspective and guidance may give you a renewed sense of acceptance of yourself. Lastly, this might actually be the perfect time to explore a hobby or interest you've had -- take a cooking class or an art class. Anything that allows you, even if for a couple of hours, to get back in touch with your old self; you remember her don't you? She's still in there, I promise.

How do you cope with the stress of infertility? Please share, as this may help others who are struggling.


B said...

everyone seems to be talking about how maddening it is when people say 'just relax' at the minute :)

i've blogged about this here but also wanted to point you to this post on glow in the woods. i mentioned this research on there and someone went and looked up the paper and then came back to say that she thinks their conclusions are WAY too strong for the evidence they found. i thought it was really interesting.

i think this research is far more interesting than the recently published one to be honest. i'm doing relaxation cds at the mo and am feeling much better able to cope. it still remains to see whether it helps me conceive though.....

The Infertility Doula said...

Hi B, thank you for your insightful comment (as usual!). I read your blog entry and I think you perfectly exemplify the point I was trying to make: being stress free isn't going to get you pregnant, but trying cope with the stress will give you a healthier life and who knows, maybe help finally conceive.

I think the study you attached is indeed very intriguing and more convincing than the one I referred to in my blog.

I used some guided imagery CDs during my IVF cycles, although not during my last one, go figure!

B said...

thanks :)
did you like doing the guided imagery CDs? i'm always a bit scared of doing anything that sounds like i 'expect' to get a baby to take home one day (loss will do that to you) but am still kind of curious. i used to say i'd try nearly anything once, but i'm more nervous these days :s

The Infertility Doula said...

The guided imagery was very specific to IVF: imagining your follicles growing, your uterus is a welcoming place, etc. That kind of stuff. I also used guided imagery in preparation for the birth of my son. Honestly, I listened to them at night. It helped me relax and I must admit I've fallen asleep to them many times. For those few minutes, you're truly focused on the words and on the imagery. The IVF CD was also good about breaking up the cycle in parts, so you weren't listening to irrelevant stuff. I'd say give it shot, but it's hard to find someone who's voice isn't going to bother you.

B said...

thanks for that! very interesting.

the general relaxation cds i have, the guy is scottish and has a few verbal tics that aren't really the greatest for that kind of thing... it's quite distracting at times! but it still helps me relax, so i put up with it. i'm sure there must be general fertility ones so i might look into that too.

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