If you have been Trying to Conceive (TTC) for some time you will have heard a lot of ‘tips’. No doubt some of these tips included ‘don’t worry about it and it will happen, go on a holiday, or just relax’. As unhelpful as this advice probably seems at the time it is actually not that far off the mark. Stress is a major factor in many couple’s delayed conception and the reduction of stress is important to conception success.
When we are stressed we activate our stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is balanced within our bodies it plays a fundamental role in many body systems including cardiovascular, respiratory and endocrine. When our stress levels are too high, cortisol becomes imbalanced and can have a detrimental impact on our endocrine (hormonal) system. Stress is a major cause of progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance for many women. Chemically speaking, when cortisol spikes, it blocks progesterone receptors and limits the activity of progesterone. If we feel stressed out and tired our progesterone levels suffer. A cortisol spike can also increase our estrogen, which can lead to estrogen dominance. This is one of the many reasons why it is so crucial for a women to reduce stress when planning for a pregnancy.
Some tips to de-stress your life:
There are so many DON’TS in the world of TTC. Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, don’t wear this, don’t use that sexual position. Many of these don’ts are essential, some are somewhat helpful and some are urban myths. So let’s focus on the essential do’s, remove the urban myths and moderate the others.
Life is for living whether or not you are TTC. If you place unrealistic restrictions on yourself and your partner life will become an unenjoyable chore. To make a baby it truly helps that you are happy and connected to your partner. Obsessing about every aspect of your life will not usually improve this connection.
Live your life as you normally would. You will probably have to make adjustments to your diet, take more supplements than normal, and find a healthy exercise balance. See this as a positive change you are making to your whole body, not just your reproductive organs. You will have more energy, feel clearer and happier. Embrace this change and get out there!
Often women will spend the last two weeks of their cycle avoiding life ‘in case they are pregnant’. Realistically, there is not a whole lot that you could do in this two week period that could jeopordise your pregnancy. Be sensible, but not too sensible. Go for that bike ride, make love with your partner, go dancing with your friends, smile, laugh, be you. Your life is not on hold, make sure you live it!
TTC can be stressful and it can start to become a chore rather than a journey. Sometimes it can be very difficult to look on the bright side of the conception journey but this bright side can make the journey seem less disheartening. Get outside, enjoy the world around you, make ‘smelling the roses’ part of your daily routine, even if it is only for 10 minutes. Walking in general is a great exercise to enhance your fertility and overall health and has the added benefit of proven stress, depression and anxiety reduction.
Take 10 deep breaths, sit down and just focus on the breath and nothing else. Shallow, upper chest breathing is part of a typical stress response, by consciously engaging the diaphragm in the respiratory cycle you can reduce your stress response. Abdominal breathing helps to control the nervous system, encouraging the body and mind to relax.
By combining breathing and stretching, yoga naturally raises endorphins and promotes a relaxation response. You can do it in your lounge room using a DVD or a video from Youtube, or you can attend classes at a studio. When ttc calmer, less intense versions of yoga are the most beneficial including yin, hatha, iyengar, restorative or vinyasa. Yoga is also great for improving blood flow generally, which will in turn promote blood flow to the pelvis and reproductive organs. To reduce the risk of ‘back flow’ only undertake inversions on days you are not menstruating.
Meditation is shown to considerably reduce stress. There are lots of great fertility meditation apps available. Set your alarm for 15 minutes early each morning and listen to a meditation app before you start your day. It will help ensure you start your day calmer and less stressed.
KEEP A JOURNAL
It is so easy to get stuck in your own head, thinking and re-thinking the same unhelpful thoughts over and over again. Getting those thoughts down on paper will help to stop the over-thinking process. Let your journal be your sounding board. Express your sadness, anger, guilt, jealousy, disappointment through writing and allow yourself some free space in your mind to think happy, healthy thoughts.
Once you have given your negative thoughts to the pages of your journal, finish the experience by writing three things that you are grateful for in your life, day, week or year. Studies have indicated that those who practice gratitude daily are more alert, enthusiastic, determined, optimistic and energetic and are less depressed and stressed. Now that is something to be grateful for!
GET SOME SUNLIGHT
Many people are Vitamin D deficient due to the amount of time they spend inside. Having adequate vitamin D is beneficial to so many aspects of your health, including your mental and fertile health. By getting optimum sunlight you are reducing your risk of depression and therefore reducing your stress levels.
Modern technology is amazing, we can be connected at all times. But it is questionable how helpful this is for our mental well being. Designate ‘you’ time. The time where you are no longer connected to the world outside your home. Put your phone on flight mode, turn off the computer, put down the tablet, turn off the television. Give yourself at least an hour before bedtime to avoid screens. To start with you may need to read a book to get yourself used to the lack of stimulation but you will notice quite quickly that you are actually ready for bed earlier than you used to be because your mind is less active. You will notice a far more restful and effective sleep is restored.
MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY
Our body requires restful, effective sleep to function optimally. There are innumerable studies that consistently show that sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical and emotional well being. Everyone is different, but generally adults require between 7-9hrs sleep a night. A good night’s sleep can help lower blood pressure and reduce levels of cortisol, which in turn will help to balance your estrogen and progesterone levels. Your whole life will function better when you get the amount of sleep your body requires.
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