Stress is omnipresent in any assisted reproduction process. The stakes are high (creating life!) and the journey can be long and full of uncertainties. We don’t control the timing, let alone the outcome. The protocols are complex and ultra-medicalised. We multiply medical appointments, ultrasound scans, tests, and we have to do the injections ourselves.
Stress: An Inseparable Element Of Fertility Treatments
So we have an active role in the process and yet very little control over the protocol and the results.
Advising a woman undergoing a fertility treatment not to stress, not to think about it too much, or even to relax, is like telling a baby not to cry when hungry. How can we avoid thinking about it when we inject hormones every day, even several times a day? How can we not think about that visceral desire to be a mother that comes from deep inside us, when pregnancies multiply all around us?
Stress: What Is It And What Impact Does It Have On Fertility Treatments?
Let’s go back to the basics: stress is a set of physical and physiological reactions of the body to a particular situation or stressors. Our whole body then goes into a state of “alert” (heart, breathing, muscle tension), which triggers a hormonal cascade with the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can also have consequences on our behaviour and our daily life, which in turn can affect our organism: smoking, alcohol consumption, less balanced diet, poor quality of sleep…
It is therefore obvious that stress has a physiological impact on our body and its functioning, and that stress and fertility are not best friends. However, can we say that stress can have an impact on a woman’s ability to get pregnant? In other words, can we say that being stressed before, during and after an assisted reproduction protocol can have a decisive impact on the outcome (specifically, on the quality of the eggs or the implantation of the embryo)? Studies contradict each other and in the end it is difficult to prove this, and above all, to prove that the mere fact of being stressed can prevent pregnancy. Reproduction is a complex process and infertility is often multifactorial: so many things are involved that, while stress is not good for the body, it is rarely a decisive factor on its own.
The same is true for the first months of pregnancy: many women are very stressed at the beginning of a pregnancy, especially when they have had to resort to assisted reproduction. However, the vast majority of miscarriages are related to the embryo, not to stress or anything the woman might do during pregnancy. So rest assured: just being stressed cannot cause a miscarriage (in fact, there are many examples of women getting pregnant in situations of intense stress, for example in times of war, to name but one).
How To Manage Stress During Fertility Treatments?
In the end, then, the question is not how to stop stressing, but how to better manage this stress and its impact on our body: how to implement strategies to reduce or release stress, and approach assisted reproduction in a more serene way.
Here are some tricks to help you:
– Be informed:
Knowing what and when will happen will allow you to prepare for it. Ask the doctors and nurses all your questions, don’t leave any doubt unanswered. Have it explained to you, 3 times if necessary, how to do injections, what is an egg retrieval or what the side effects of a medication are.
– Learn to recognise the signs of stress:
From the emotional (fear, anxiety, sadness), physical (accelerated heart rate, hot flushes, heart sinking) and mental (negative thoughts) point of view. Connecting with your emotions and trying to understand them is the first step to better accept them and regain control.
– Release stress physically:
Release stress hormones by practicing a daily physical activity (no need to do boxing, you can simply walk on a daily basis or practice a sport you like). Another little trick to relieve stress: turn the music up loud in your living room and start dancing, singing, shouting to release it all: you will feel much better!
– Practice relaxation exercises:
Meditation, mindfulness or relaxation through breathing are techniques that can be very useful to regain some serenity.
– Support your body with natural therapies:
Yoga, acupuncture, sophrology, hypnotherapy… You don’t have to go into “warrior mode” and do everything: try different things to find the discipline that suits you best and makes you feel good.
– Eat well, healthy and balanced, to promote good sleep and to pamper yourself.
– Don’t let yourself feel alone, ask for help
In these processes, the support of a coach or a psychologist can help you:
- Understand these emotional ups and downs
- Deconstruct limiting beliefs and negative thoughts
- Identify your priorities and what is really important to you
- Implement strategies to experience this process in a more serene way
- Let off steam with a person who knows these processes, understands you and does not judge you.