It’s one of the worst things to be told by someone when you’re trying to fall pregnant. “Just relax! It will happen when you’re relaxed.”
As annoying as this is to hear, they might actually have a point.
Of course if you’ve been trying to conceive for over 12 months, please see a GP to have any medical concerns eliminated before assuming it’s just stress.
Stress is a physical response to a perceived threat. It’s like a complex natural alarm system.
When your body feels threatened, a surge of hormones are released from the Kidneys to help the body manage this.
Adrenalin and cortisol are the two major hormones released and they both have impacts on your health if they’re surging for too long.
Adrenalin increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and starts moving your stored energy, ready to help you deal with stress.
When you’re trying to fall pregnant, this means there will be less energy stores to support your pregnancy and the high blood pressure and heart rate can put your health at risk before and during pregnancy.
Cortisol is the main ‘stress’ hormone released in response to stress. High levels of cortisol causes an increase in blood sugar (has a major impact on women with PCOS) and works to switch off all the non essential functions of the body.
These non essential functions include the immune system, the digestive system and of course the reproductive system. These are not seen as important body systems in times of high stress.
If stress lasts long enough, these systems can become quite unresponsive. Hormones can become imbalanced, ovulation can be affected and your ability to nourish a growing baby can be affected.
When the stress is removed, these systems can go back to normal. And it can happen surprisingly quickly. Which is why so many women report being able to fall pregnant when they go on holidays.
However, most couples can’t plan a holiday every month around ovulation so what else can you do to reduce stress and improve your chance of pregnancy?
Exercise – moderate, regular exercise helps manage the body’s response to stress. Walking, yoga, pilates, Qi Gong, Tai Qi – all really good to help with breathing which can reduce cortisol levels almost immediately. It’s easy to avoid exercising on days you feel really stressed, but make the effort to do something small, even if it’s just some deep breathing, you will feel much better.
Managing your stress – discuss your workload with your boss, plan more regular holidays, rearrange your social schedule, ask friends and family for help, hire a cleaner or food service to reduce some of the stressors affecting you. Of course, you can always see a psychologist for any specific stress management techniques.
Eat a warm, balanced diet – a healthy diet will keep you nourished for times of stress. For women, this includes grainfed meat with some fat, loads of fruit and vegetable, nuts, seeds and grains (unless intolerant).
Mindfulness – encourages you to sit for 10-15 min per day and slow your mind down. Research has found it is a great natural support for lowering cortisol. It can take some time to master this but worth it!
Acupuncture – acupuncture reduces adrenalin and cortisol. Because of this, it can help to regulate your hormones, improve ovulation and support your natural pregnancy experience.