5 Long-Term Stress Management Strategies for Infertility Mar 13, 2023 | by Lucy Solie-Vilker, Program Director

“Relax,” “Take a vacation,” “Don’t worry so much”. These are a few comments infertile couples frequently hear. It may seem like simple advice but when you’ve gone through multiple failed IVF cycles and you’re nearing your breakpoint, the last thing you want to hear is "Just relax." You’re probably thinking, “How can I relax when I’m doing everything I can and I still can’t get pregnant?”.

Infertility Is Stressful and There Are Studies to Prove It

An infertility diagnosis is not just a medical issue; it's a whirlwind of emotional turmoil, affecting your psychological well-being, your relationships, and even your physical health. Research confirms the profound levels of stress experienced by individuals undergoing fertility treatments.

Interesting infertility fact: Studies show that infertility patients experience stress levels comparable to those of cancer patients. Find strategies to decrease stress due to IVF, donor eggs, and infertility in this blog post!

We Know That Infertility Causes Stress, But Does Stress Cause Infertility?

Stress does not directly cause infertility, however, stress can affect the body in ways that may contribute to fertility challenges. High levels of stress can lead to behaviors and physical responses that can indirectly impact fertility, such as changes in hormone levels, irregular menstrual cycles, and reduced sexual desire. While stress alone is unlikely to be the sole cause of infertility, managing stress levels can be an important part of maintaining overall health and well-being during attempts to conceive.

When you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure. If the body is continuously producing adrenaline your body is always in a state of fight or flight. This state tenses the body and doesn’t allow it to function properly and easily, which can affect the physiological responses involved in conception.

Managing Stress Levels Effectively Increases Chances of a Successful IVF Cycle

Studies have shown that stress can impact pregnancy outcomes negatively, highlighting the importance of maintaining a calm and balanced state — even your stress levels before embryo transfer can affect your prenatal environment.

Prioritize Long-Term Strategies Over Short-Term Fixes

Relaxing just doesn’t cut it when you have constant thoughts like worrying about your next pregnancy result, how you are going to afford another cycle if this one fails, or that your relationship with your partner is strained. Many like to relax by taking a hot bath, vacationing, or going to a movie. These are good short-term ways to unwind but they aren’t effective ways to treat stress long term. Nor are they helpful ways to cope with the overwhelming thoughts constantly rushing through your mind.

Long-Term Strategies to Help Decrease the Stress of Infertility

Infertility can be an emotional rollercoaster, filled with highs and lows, hope and disappointment. It's a path that tests your mental, physical, and emotional resilience. Recognizing the depth of this challenge, we aim to offer you practical strategies to help manage stress throughout your journey with IVF and pregnancy, beyond the well-meaning but often unhelpful advice to "just relax."

1. Process Your Feelings - Find Support

Infertility grief is such a real thing, and it should be talked about more. If you feel deep sadness, anger, frustration, stress...you're not alone. There are online support groups with others who are on similar journeys, including others who have eventually had success with IVF, whether it was with their own eggs or through donor conception, or others who had different journeys. There are also many infertility counselors with expertise in the psychological aspects of infertility and can offer invaluable support and resources. 

2. Mindfulness - Don't Underestimate the Power of Your Thoughts

While it's easier said than done, practicing mindfulness can help you control your thoughts to prevent them from spiraling into fear and anxiety. Focus on what is in your control, rather than what isn't. If you're contemplating using a donor egg, focus on the possibility of what you will be gaining instead of what you will be losing. Again, we know this is a huge perspective shift for some, which is why we have some great resources for you in point #4! 

"You have two choices: to control your mind or to let your mind control you."

-Paulo Coelho

3. Meditation - Inner Peace for Sustained Stress Relief

One of the best ways to ‘turn off’ your mind is to go inward. According to the American Heart Association, meditation is a great way to help ease the mind and reduce heart rate and blood pressure naturally. To meditate, all you need is a quiet space and 10 to 20 minutes of your time. It is recommended to meditate daily in order to see long-term benefits. Meditating is about observing your thoughts and connecting to your breath. When a thought, feeling, or sensation enters the mind, we are quick to analyze and judge it. With meditation, you are accepting that thought, feeling, or sensation and allowing it to pass. If you start to react to it, you return your focus to your breathing.

According to Harvard Health Publications, taking long, slow deep breaths helps the brain disengage. This retrains the brain to redirect distracting thoughts. Some people like to add a mantra to their meditation practice. When the mind starts to wander, you can repeat the mantra as you reconnect with your breath. A mantra can be one word or a short statement. The mantra should be a positive statement that you want to manifest in your life. It is important to remember that meditating is a practice and over time you will notice it will become easier. For patients who are seeking fertility treatment and want to find a way to ease the stresses in their lives, it may be beneficial to add a meditation practice to your daily routine.

4. Take Advantage of Our Resources!

Donor Nexus offers a wealth of resources to support you through this journey. A great place to start is with our blog series written by infertility warrior Victoria Nino, including topics like "7 Ways I Learned to Cope With Infertility Grief" and "Embracing Donor Eggs While Grieving Your Genetics". Whether you've always known you would need to use donor eggs or if you've experienced several failed IVF cycles and are beginning to consider donor eggs, we encourage you to read through other firsthand experiences and success stories to find hope for the possibilities to come. To further help with the emotions involved in using donor eggs, learning about Epigenetics has proven to be an eye-opener for many infertile women as it reveals that you still play a significant biological role in your child's development.

5. Become the Healthiest Version of Yourself - Create Healthy Habits

Lastly, your physical health is directly correlated with your mental health. This means that simple lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and finding ways to incorporate physical activity daily can significantly impact your mental health and resilience. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise not only promotes physical health but also significantly decreases stress levels by releasing endorphins, the body's natural stress relievers and mood lifters.

Encouragement for the Journey Ahead

While stress is an inevitable part of this journey, managing it not only improves your overall well-being but also enhances your chances of success. Remember, you're not alone. With the right strategies and support, you can navigate this challenging path with resilience and hope. Donor Nexus stands with you, offering resources, support, and encouragement every step of the way. 

Get in Touch

We are always here to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to start your journey!