Science says Relax – To get Pregnant
When trying for a baby doesn’t happen as easily as you’d hoped, it can quickly turn into a complicated and stressful situation. What started as something that was going to change your life and draw you and your partner closer together can instead become a grueling exercise.
Between fertility monitoring, predicting ovulations, trips to the doctor, and of course, very frequent sex, trying to get pregnant can make you feel like a quarter horse training for the Kentucky Derby.
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Scientists have come out with new research, however, that confirms what ob/gyns and midwives have known for a long time—stressing out about getting pregnant can ultimately backfire and make it even more difficult to conceive. Researchers from Ohio State University and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland teamed up with researchers from Oxford University to do the study.
For the study, scientists monitored nearly 300 women of all ages who were trying to get pregnant. Every month, they would take the women’s saliva samples to check for two chemicals released in the body as a response to stress. The women with the highest amounts of one of the chemicals, alpha-amylase, were 12% less likely to get pregnant that those with the lowest amounts. Even when other factors were accounted for, like age and frequency of sex, the stressed-out ladies were still less likely to conceive.
What does this mean for you?
It’s great that scientists have figured this out, but if you’re a woman who wants to get pregnant and it just isn’t happening, this news may seem like another stressor to add to your life. Keep in mind, however, that there are a few simple things you can do to help break the mental patterns of stress– both for your own sanity, and to increase the odds that you’ll get pregnant.
Find a mantra: One of the most worst thing about stressful thought patterns is how easy it is to fall into them, once you get used to it. There’s a physiological reason for this: for a certain type of thought, specific regions of the brain lights up with corresponding connections. In this way, the brain is a lot like any other muscle– the things you teach it to do over and over, it becomes good at. So, if you’ve taught your brain to become good at being stressed out, you’ve got to retrain it to a different way of thinking in order to get out of this cycle.
One easy way to do this is to find a phrase or a positive thought to repeat over and over when something’s happened that you just know is going to send you to that stressful place. It can be as simple as “this is going to work out" or “this is going to be fine". Repeat your mantra over and over– even if you don’t believe it– when you feel the stressful spiral starting. At the beginning this might feel fruitless and silly, but it will pay off in the end, as your brain gets directed away from those old thoughts and learns more positive patterns of thinking. You’ve got to change your brain from a muscle that’s good at stressing out to one that’s good at staying calm.
Exercise: You already know this, but keep in mind that exercise is like a healthy drug; moving around pumps endorphins into your system to help you stay positive.
Keep the stressful people out of your life (as much as possible): If you can, find tactful ways to cut down your interaction with those people in your life that just drive you crazy; you can use this new research to your benefit here. Tell your mother-in-law you just can’t go shopping because stress might be what’s keeping you from bringing her new grandkid into the world.
Joy Paley is a blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on medical assistant careers for Guide to Healthcare Schools.