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Posts Tagged ‘stress and fertility’

This is a topic that has surfaced in the support group in Oakland recently and I thought I would share some information regarding stress and infertility.

There are women who get pregnant easily even if they smoke like a chimney, drink a six-pack after dinner, and think of exercise as a waste of good texting time. Then there are the women who do all the right things but months and years pass and the strip in the home pregnancy kit refuses to change color. Relax, say well-meaning friends. Chill out. Let it happen. Gee, thanks, thinks the beneficiary of their insight, gritting her teeth.

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But as unwelcome as the advice may be, it may be right. New evidence suggests that stress does affect fertility. A recent study found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that correlates with stress, have a harder time getting pregnant. Saliva samples taken from 274 women over six menstrual cycles (or until they got pregnant) revealed that those with the highest enzyme concentrations during the first cycle were 12 percent less likely to conceive than were women with the lowest levels.

What’s more, women involved in the study, published earlier this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility, had no prior record of infertility. Participants were either planning to get pregnant or had been trying for less than three months.

Researchers do not yet understand the role stress plays, since women can and often do get pregnant even under the intense stress, for example, that follows the death of a spouse. “I suspect that some women are more reproductively sensitive to stress than other women,” says Alice Domar, who directs the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. And the effect can feed on itself. “If you are stressed and you don’t get pregnant quickly, then you get more stressed,” says Domar, citing evidence from a study in Taiwan in which 40 percent of participants seeking infertility treatment were diagnosed with depression or anxiety. The treatment itself can be stressful, she adds, adding even more uncertainty.

[Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success]

If stress can influence the chance of conception, managing it may improve the odds. Researchers like Sarah Berga, who heads the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, have been trying to prove just that. Berga and her colleagues studied women who had stopped ovulating for more than six months and found that they had high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. In stressful situations, cortisol, like adrenaline, pushes metabolism into high gear; sustained high levels can raise blood pressure, cause weight gain, or lead to other health problems. In a small study by Berga published in 2003, seven out of eight participants who received stress management therapy began ovulating again versus two out of eight who got no intervention.

What are some practical ways women trying to get pregnant can reduce stress? Experts make these recommendations:

Enlist your partner. Research shows that women handle infertility-related stress differently from men. Women more often seek social support, for example; men lean towards problem-solving. That disconnect can strain the relationship. Constant attention on procreation, according to psychologist Julia Woodward of the Duke Fertility Center in Durham, N.C., also contributes, siphoning the fun and joy from sex. She advises couples to act as if they were dating again. Set aside time during the week to go to a movie. Take a dance class together. And put a time limit of 20 minutes or so on pregnancy discussions. Fertility talk that goes on and on can make matters worse, she says.

Rethink your attitude. Thinking “everybody else gets pregnant so easily” only causes distress. Woodward helps women counter their negativity with positive coping statements: “If getting pregnant was so easy, there wouldn’t be fertility clinics.” Recognize pessimistic thinking and practice forming a response that is more realistic.

Try journaling. Setting down on paper how you feel can take some of the pressure off, says Tracy Gaudet, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine. It’s a way to off-load concerns you feel uncomfortable sharing, she says. And you can shred the pages or throw them out, a physical act that contributes to the effect.

Stay active. Continuing activities you enjoy is critical, says Woodward; otherwise the pregnancy project becomes the sole focus. Take pictures, plan special meals—whatever your passion, indulge it. Doing something enjoyable also boosts serotonin, a mood-enhancing brain chemical. That’s an added bonus.

Work on relaxation. One easy way, Gaudet suggests, is to spend time once or twice a day coaxing the body into a state of deep relaxation. Take five minutes or so to close your eyes and transport yourself to a far-off destination, a mini-mental vacation. Allow yourself to experience all the senses of your surroundings, says Gaudet, and your body will respond as if you are actually there. The benefits of the “relaxation response” include a slower heart rate and lower blood pressure. If a specific kind of technique is preferred, there’s no shortage of choices. Meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation are just a few.

[Relax! Stress, if Managed, Can Be Good For You]

Exercise. Walking, swimming, yoga, or other moderate exercise may take the edge off stress, and it has additional advantages. Overweight women who trim pounds through physical activity benefit, for example; extra body fat produces excess estrogen, which interferes with ovulation. Higher-energy workouts like running or jogging stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins. Berga warns that too much exercise for women who are already stressed, however, can make matters worse, since exertion triggers the release of cortisol. Relying exclusively on exercise to relieve stress, moreover, won’t do anything about what is causing it—a hostile boss, for example.

[5 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise]

Get individual counseling or group support. A woman struggling to get pregnant needs someone who can empathize, says Woodward. Counseling can be an outlet for feelings of confusion, sadness, and frustration. Group support, says Woodward, is particularly helpful for women who feel isolated as a result of infertility. Resolve.org, a website of the National Infertility Association, has links to local support groups across the nation.

Source: By Megan Johnson U.S. News & World Report

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Are you letting this “infertility” battle take control of your life and ruin it? Are you losing sleep over your fertility issues and withdrawing from life?  Don’t worry, I have been there too. 

There so many people who may not know if they are infertile. However, chances are high that if you have had some problems getting pregnant, then thoughts of whether you can really conceive and give birth to a child must have crossed your mind, at least at some point in your life. You will surely question why, or what’s wrong and wonder whether you could be infertile.

You ask, yourself what the signs of infertility may be or think I am over 35 and my odds are going against me. Time is running out!  You begin to think that your dreams of having children may never happen. Your emotions can really get to its worst and then you become desperate, mad, totally stressed out and go into despair. For God’s sake, don’t let that happen to you! If you think that you are infertile, what you should do is try to learn everything you can on this subject.  The trick is to not let this consume you and ruin your life. Easier said then done, right. Not really, only if you “think” it is too hard will it be.

In my Oakland bi-weekly “fertility” group we are working on “letting go” and to not continue to focus on what we are lacking but more on what we have now, today.  All we have is today and if we are in our heads about tomorrow or yesterday then we are missing the beauty of life today.  I truly believe that being mindful during this process is the key to being able to handle it and successfully getting pregnant.  But you need to come to a place where you are okay with either way it works out. You don’t “need” a child, you only “want” one…that is the goal that I want the women in my group to walk away remembering.  I am a licensed MFT therapist in the East Bay area who has been practice since 2000 and have had a personal journey with fertility issues.  Trust me, I get it. 

If you are interested in more information about this topic, individual therpay, or our groups, please contact Amoreena Berg at 650-224-1796 or email amoreena@gmail.comwww.amoreenabergmft.com

Baby Dust to you all in 2010!

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It’s winter and many of us are dealing with the weather challenges, travel, visiting relatives, eating unhealthy food and not getting enough exercise. Plus, we have the daily challenges of life, relationships, financial challenges, our job (or lack of one).

It’s easy to get scattered, overwhelmed, or stressed out. It’s easy to forget to take good care of your precious self.

We bring this up because mastery over any fertility issue is very much a mental game.

Sometimes even the best of us need to retreat to refocus our thoughts, energies and resources.

I personally struggle like everyone else to live a balanced and successful life. I have to take the time to remind myself that being in a bad mood or feeling stressed out is a choice, and that I can choose to look at my life and situation differently.

When you realize that you are experiencing burnout from the reality of life, it’s time for you to bring to mind “the skill of awareness.”

What this means is that you have an awareness that you are not in a resourceful mindset or mental state. You need to give yourself permission to nurture yourself and honor your emotions.

It’s important to remember that feelings are energy and they need to be acknowledged.

Do yourself a big favor and create an outlet that allows you to get out of your negative state of mind and honor your feelings.

I love to talk walks at the nearby forest reserve. It’s immensely calming to look out onto the trees and smell the fresh air.  Squirrels and other critters play and it is quiet and peaceful. All of my problems and concerns become insignificant for this moment. I give myself permission to quiet my mind and become totally immersed in the Present Moment. When I come home, I feel like a different person. I have a different perspective on my problems and often come up with a creative solution.

What can you do to play hooky and do something that will renew your soul, give you temporary escape from life’s challenges and demands, and give you some resourceful insights?

Write down some of the ways you will reset your stress button. And then schedule some time to make it happen!

By the way you are not dealing with infertility issues anymore, please stop telling that story!  Your are fertile and have no more issues, you are healing as we speak and your body knows exactly what to do.  Trust and have faith that is it healing.

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