By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
If you’re a couple trying to conceive (TTC), I know I don’t have to tell you how stressful it can be. Many of my TTC patients feel like they’re under a lot of pressure, especially now that many women are choosing to delay having children until later in life. They can hear their biological clocks ticking, and can sense perimenopause approaching.
A recent review of published studies found that 25% to 60% of infertile couples were affected by stress, anxiety, and depression and that their levels of anxiety and depression were notably higher than in fertile controls.1
We live in a society that expects instant gratification. But when it comes to getting pregnant, it’s normal for conception to take months or even a year or more after getting off birth control.
With my fertility patients, I often stress the need to address toxin exposure, weight loss, and stress before they can conceive. Ironically, trying to conceive can cause stress, which may impact your ability to get pregnant.
How Does Stress Affect Fertility?
Research is mixed on this. A study of 111 women aged 18-35 who kept a personal diary of their stress levels found that moderate stress did not affect the time it takes to get pregnant.2
On the other hand, we know that stress impacts health in many ways, and it is not uncommon at all to hear women say that severe stressful life events caused irregular or missed periods, at least in the short term. And, the evidence is building that stress can affect fertility.
In one study, researchers compared women with high saliva levels of an enzyme known as alpha-amylase, an indicator of being under stress, with women who had low levels of the enzyme.3 Women with the highest levels took 29% longer to get pregnant than women with lower levels and had more than double the risk of infertility.
In another study, higher levels of perceived stress were linked to a slight reduction in the ability to get pregnant.4
Furthermore, stress is known to lower libido, so if you’re anxious you might not feel like having sex.
How to Reduce Stress While Trying to Conceive
Although getting pregnant can be stressful, there are things you can do to make it more relaxing. Here are some ways to conquer stress when trying to get pregnant.
Find a TTC Support Group
This could be a formal fertility support group or simply a circle of TTC peeps who understand what you’re going through and provide encouragement and the latest fertility news. Friends who aren’t trying to get pregnant and family members might make things worse. Some of your most loved and trusted family and friends may not understand the emotional impact of wanting something so desperately. They may try to problem solve, saying you can always adopt or telling you to relax. That’s why interacting with other TTC couples can help.
Take a Weekend Getaway
Trying to conceive can make sex feel mechanical. This is why many couples find that weekend getaways and unplugging from the world’s energy improve their fertility outcomes. Some resorts even cater to couples who want to take a baby-making vacation.
Don’t Overthink It
This may sound cliché, but it’s wise advice: all you can do is your best. Read up on ways to increase fertility and consult with your healthcare provider. Make use of fertility apps to predict your fertile window by monitoring ovulation signs like cervical mucus and basal body temperature (BBT). Plan one-on-one time with your significant other when you know you’re most fertile. After that, don’t overthink it. Worrying will just make you more stressed.
Although it’s frustrating for friends and family members tell you to “just relax” the fact is that relaxation techniques may help you get pregnant. Meditation is linked to increased pregnancy rates in women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).5 Another study in women with recurrent pregnancy loss concluded that meditation and a mindfulness intervention reduced perceived stress.6
You Can Reduce Stress When TTC
Trying to conceive is a stressful time for many couples. It can become a vicious circle where trying to get pregnant leads to stress, which in turn may get in the way of conception. The good news? You can reduce your stress levels by interacting with couples undergoing the same challenges as you, going on weekend getaways, doing the best you can under the circumstances, and meditating regularly.
Dr. Chris Meletis
Dr. Chris Meletis is an educator, international author and lecturer. His personal mission is “Changing World’s Health One Person at a Time.” Dr Meletis has authored 18 books and over 200 national scientific articles in journals including Natural Health, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Life Extension, Natural Pharmacy, and PubMed.gov aritcles.
Dr. Meletis served as Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for 7 years for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now the National University of Natural Medicine). He was awarded the 2003 Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. He has a deep passion for helping the underprivileged and spearheaded the creation of 16 free natural medicine healthcare clinics in the Portland metropolitan area of Oregon.
1. De Berardis D, Mazza M, Marini S, et al. Psychopathology, emotional aspects and psychological counselling in infertility: a review. Clin Ter. 2014;165(3):163-169.
2. Park J, Stanford JB, Porucznik CA, Christensen K, Schliep KC. Daily perceived stress and time to pregnancy: A prospective cohort study of women trying to conceive. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019;110:104446.
3. Lynch CD, Sundaram R, Maisog JM, Sweeney AM, Buck Louis GM. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study–the LIFE study. Hum Reprod. 2014;29(5):1067-1075.
4. Wesselink AK, Hatch EE, Rothman KJ, et al. Perceived Stress and Fecundability: A Preconception Cohort Study of North American Couples. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187(12):2662-2671.
5. Domar AD, Rooney KL, Wiegand B, et al. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertil Steril. 2011;95(7):2269-2273.
6. Jensen KHK, Krog MC, Koert E, et al. Meditation and mindfulness reduce perceived stress in women with recurrent pregnancy loss: a randomized controlled trial. Reprod Biomed Online. 2021;43(2):246-256.