If you’re suffering with infertility, you already know that stress is related to fertility treatments. However, many women believe being stressed contributes to their fertility problems and think the best way to solve it is to leave their high powered or demanding job immediately.
BUT, research finds infertility certainly causes stress - not vice versa.
In fact, even when physical stress or emotional stress does interfere with your menstrual cycle, stress-induced hormonal changes are usually self-correcting and self-limiting. That means when there is a persistent fertility problem that follows stress, the stress was most likely a trigger for a pre-existing medical condition or predisposition.
Think about it. Women can conceive under the most stressful circumstances if there is no physiological problem - even traumatized women and war prisoners often get pregnant. If reproductive systems are as vulnerable to stress as many believe, the human species would have perished long ago. And that means Aunt Fannie’s advice to, “just relax and then you’ll get pregnant” is a myth.
This means - don't leave your job to reduce stress levels while going through fertility treatment, unless you wanted to leave anyway! Quitting your job is often counter-productive since any drastic change in daily life usually increases stress levels. Even good change. That’s because stress levels go up when predictability goes down, so familiar routines are usually more stress-reducing than unstructured free-time.
Besides, a job that requires a regular wake-up schedule will help to reset your biological clock each day, a good thing for energy and for mood. And here’s the best benefit of all - work relationships can offer both distraction and support. Even if you choose not to tell your work-friends about your treatment, you can still get support when you don’t feel well – for example, jokes when you feel down, and referrals and resources to make the rest of your life easier.
But since reducing stress is always a good idea, especially during fertility treatment, here are some suggestions that do not include quitting your job:
- First, stop beating yourself up with “should haves” and “could haves.” Accept that there are no “do-overs” and we have no control over the past or the future. Instead, try to live in the present and deal with the diagnosis.
- Next, choose to behave “as if” you are calm and optimistic. Your brain will signal your body that extra adrenaline is not needed. Soon you will actually feel more calm and optimistic. It works!
- Then, if your work buddies do know about your fertility problems, make sure they know that being stressed is not the cause of your fertility problem, and if you have a partner, encourage your partner to learn about infertility facts too, for their own sake as well as yours.
- During work breaks, take some time-outs from worrying, watching and waiting because play and laughter are nature’s stress relievers. For example, try a competitive game with others or online, read a funny email, or send them to a friend. This will actually release mood-elevating brain chemicals, and according to a Harvard study, a total of just 20 minutes a day of laughter or play can decrease stress symptoms by 50 percent.
- If you enjoy working out, do it after work or before! Exercise helps burn off frustration and you can feel more like you did before you exhausted yourself with self-blame. This will also remind you to treat yourself well. And if you can’t get away from the office for a workout, close your office door during lunch, put on your headphones, choose a song faster than your heartbeat (72 beats per minute) and dance around the office for ten minutes.
- And finally, remember to be your own best friend. Stop blaming yourself for being stressed and treat yourself to the same supportiveness, consideration and respect you give to others you love.
Bottom line, give yourself a break and remind yourself, again and again, that infertility usually causes stress, but stress does not usually cause infertility.