Stress Awareness Month 2024: Trying to Conceive

fertility black

April is Stress Awareness month. If you are on a fertility journey then you probably do not need to be made any more aware of stress. So I would prefer it was called stress reduction month, it might make it more appealing.

fertility stress

Will stress stop me getting pregnant?

Trying to conceive (TTC) can be stressful and that is OK, you cannot get away from this. Yet it is one of the major concerns people bring to therapy: will stress stop me getting pregnant? My simple answer is NO. This is based on my 20 years of clinical experience and the current evidence base. Stress will not make us feel good, either physically or mentally, but it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference to my clients going through fertility treatment.

Why manage stress when TTC?

What does matter is how we deal with stress. This is important in the here and now as well as for the longer term. We know that the longer a fertility journey goes on for, the more stressful it becomes with worse outcomes for your mental health. Equally, stress preconception and during pregnancy increases the risk of peri-natal mental health difficulties. Research also indicates that an unsuccessful fertility journey can have lasting effects on your mental health. Therefore, to help you cope with your fertility journey now and to prevent future mental health problems, managing your stress level is essential.

fertility stress

What is stress?

There are many definitions of stress. I like to simply think of it as not having the resources or capacity to deal with the demands placed upon us. This triggers physical sensations of distress leading to emotional responses. Stress is an adaptive and helpful response that warns us we need to do something differently, something is not working for us, we need to soothe our body. However, when stressed we often engage in unhelpful narratives around our inability to manage and self-criticism. This is the exact opposite of what would help us.

How often have you felt stress and then blamed yourself for

not being pregnant yet? 

How often have you put yourself down when feeling stressed?

How often have you stopped to think, what do I need to help me right now?

fertility stress

Stress Management

There are evidence-based skills we can learn to help us increase our resources and capacity. If I am going to invest my precious time and energy into something, I like to know that science has proven it can help. Therefore, my favourite approaches for day to day stress management are:

Meditation

Movement

Rest

Nutrition

Journaling

Breathwork

Cold exposure (on a warm enough day!)

I almost guarantee there will be a combination of these approaches that can help you manage your stress level as you TTC.  

In addition, accepting that we cannot change something helps us to stop struggling against it and can help us sit with the stress in a place of acceptance rather than struggle. This does not come naturally for most people, but is an approach that can be fostered. Most people need a combination of both approaches, tailored to your specific needs and preferences. You will find free resources on my website to help you with some of these approaches and guided support within my membership program. (if you sign up the email will be in your junk folder!)

Psychological Therapy

Some people will also need psychological therapy to overcome barriers to implementing the above, helping them to release old patterns or trauma that may be influencing how they are coping with their fertility journey. If you are having treatment in a licensed fertility clinic, I encourage you to make use of the in house therapists to support you as you TTC. If you are interested in working with me, either on a 1:1 basis or in my group programs, get in touch.

I love hearing from you, feel free to leave a comment below or email marie@thefertilitypsychologist.co.uk.

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