Trying for a Baby? Try Not to Stress

You desperately want to be a parent and all your friends seem to be announcing their pregnancies to the world. While you're happy for them, you're experiencing a wrenching gamut of emotions about your own situation that ranges from anger to despair to fear. It's also natural to feel extremely stressed out as month after month goes by - first your hope builds up, and then your period arrives once more, dashing those dreams again.

If you've already been through an exhaustive battery of tests to find out what's causing the infertility, you may already have some answers and be getting treated by a physician for infertility. But sometimes, there are no answers.

"About 20 percent of patients who can't get pregnant have unexplained infertility," says Jennifer Wu, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "We just have not figured out all the causes yet."

The Role Stress Plays

Stress could play a role in infertility, she says. "When patients are going through infertility and we can't find any reason for it, I talk to them about decreasing stress," she says. "But getting rid of stress doesn't mean you should quit your job and move out to the wilderness."

Stress may contribute to infertility, says Dr. David Keefe, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, but the link has not yet been proven.

"There is some evidence that stress reduction can improve fertility," he says. "So when people are going through fertility treatment and feeling stressed, we encourage them to do whatever they need to do in order to reduce stress."

If you're trying to have a baby, here are some ways to reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being and serenity, from Wu and Keefe.

  • Acupuncture is one way to keep stress levels at bay.

  • Meditation, besides making you feel less stressed out about your fertility issues, can help you feel more positive in general.

  • Try yoga, which is also very relaxing and can reduce stress. As a side benefit, it can help you get into better physical shape.

  • Exercise is an excellent stress buster. Choose a form you'll stick with, and consider exercising with your partner. But don't work out excessively. "Too much exercise can actually cause your period to stop, which would mean you are no longer ovulating," Keefe explains.

  • Make sure that you and your doctor are on the same page with your fertility treatments, and that he or she really listens to you. "If your stress is caused by a lack of control and lack of choices, talk to your doctor about resolving this," Keefe says. "There is almost never just one option where fertility treatments are concerned. Being involved in treatment decisions can lower your stress level, he says.