Okay, we know you’re tired of the “relax and you’ll get pregnant” advice you hear so often from others who learn you’re going through fertility treatments. However, we also can’t ignore the fact that as researchers delve deeper into the realm of stress and its effects on the body, there’s a growing body of evidence-based research supporting the importance of relaxation and calm on general health as well as fertility. Read, Is Stress Affecting Your Fertility, to learn more about the evidence supporting this important topic.
If you’re in the midst of fertility treatments, we highly recommend cultivating a relaxation practice. At best, it will increase your chances of fertility success – and at worse, cultivating a more relaxed and stress-free state will help you mentally and emotionally as you go through the treatment protocol.
Ideas for Cultivating a Relaxation Practice that Supports Fertility Treatments
Here are some of the ways RRC clients learn to cultivate personalized relaxation practices that facilitate health and well-being as they pursue fertility treatments.
Establish healthy sleep patterns
This may seem generic but sleep is such an important factor in our overall well-being. Sleep regulates our body’s circadian rhythm and establishes healthy base-lines for metabolism, healing, restoration and rejuvenation, subconscious processing and learning, hormone and other biochemical production, etc.
Studies show that under-sleeping, as well as over-sleeping, disrupts the body’s rhythms and these poor sleep habits can affect fertility rates. Try to establish a sleep routine that includes:
- Consistent sleep and wake times
- 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
- A bedroom designed for rest and relaxation
- Screen-free time for at least 30 minutes before bed each night
- Using red-spectrum light for nightlights to minimize the interruption of the melatonin cycle
Read, Healthy Sleep Habits, by sleepeduccation.org, for more information on how to facilitate healthy sleep patterns in your own life.
Take a yoga, tai chi, qi gong or other breath-based classes
There is a myriad of classes that teach breath work, mindfulness and energy-focus out there, so choose one that’s right for you. Some of the most popular are yoga, tai chi and qi gong – all eastern-based exercise classes. We like these because the promote body awareness, flexibility and stability – along with the relaxation benefits – and they can all be continued safely after you are pregnant.
However, if none of these appeal to you, consider taking a meditation class, stress reduction courses, or breath-based relaxation courses (check with your local wellness center, physician, or even the local parks and rec center schedule). All of these will help you learn how to focus your mind and breath when stress, anxiety or your busy mind get the best of you.
Acupuncture relieves stress and is associated with higher IVF success rates
Acupuncture has existed for thousands of years and is associated with numerous health benefits. Unfortunately, western medicine didn’t give acupuncture and other Chinese medicine techniques the respect they deserved until scientific evidence proved otherwise.
Now we know that acupuncture can increase IVF success rates for some women, and the relaxing benefits are certainly worth considering. Look for a licensed acupuncturist, one that specializes in women and couples with infertility, and see how you feel. Timing acupuncture sessions with various fertility treatments may be especially beneficial.
Visit a fertility counselor
We are big believers in the power of fertility counseling. If we had our way, every client who receives a fertility diagnosis would immediately pair up with a fertility counselor to help her/himself navigate the bumpy fertility treatment path. In addition to facilitating your way through the ups and downs, your counselor will help you to identify the causes of stress in your life and mitigate them. Also, she will educate you about – and help you practice – various relaxation techniques as you find the one(s) that resonate the most with yourself and your lifestyle.
Say hello to self-care
There are all kinds of ways to focus on self-care in order to promote relaxation – and a healthier mind/body framework – during your fertility treatments.
- Eating a healthy diet
- Taking advantage of self-care practices such as reiki, massage or even a simple mani-pedi
- Dedicating 30-minutes a day to exercise, walking, hiking, spending time in nature, stretching, etc.
- Journaling your feelings relentlessly so they get out onto the page and aren’t stuffed inside, creating subconscious habit (maybe it’s time to start an infertility blog??)
Don’t let fertility treatments and appointments with your specialist be the only way you focus on you. Prioritize self-care to remain more centered, grounded and relaxed.
Know when to take a break from fertility treatments
It may seem counter intuitive, but sometimes taking a break from fertility treatments is the best thing you can do to alleviate stress and help your mind and body get back on track before you pursue the next treatment or IVF cycle. Failed fertility treatments are incredibly stressful and they can wind up triggering a desperate and relentless pursuit in some women. Unfortunately, this can undermine your ability to conceive – particularly if your body is sensitive to the stress hormones and adrenal response that ensues.
Instead, work with your fertility specialist and/or your fertility counselor to learn when to say when. Taking a set number of months or even a year off can help you to come back to center, re-establish important bonds with your partner, family and friends and to create a fresh, stress-free space before committing to the next IVF cycle or treatment.
In addition to facilitating your journey through fertility treatments, relaxation practices will help you in your day-to-day life, as well as along your future parenting journey so you’re cultivating a lifelong skill.