When I was trying to conceive (TTC) — and it was taking forever — the most frustrating thing I would hear from everyone was, “Why don’t you just relax?” or “It will happen when you relax and stop trying.” And as infuriating as that was to hear, because let’s face it, getting pregnant is not as easy as just having sex and waiting for it to happen for some women, I wondered if this “advice” had any merit — scientifically speaking, of course. Does relaxing really help you get pregnant? Turns out, as much as I may hate to admit it, that “advice” may be right, according to experts.
Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper in an email interview, “It is well known, with respect to the ovarian to pituitary axis, that stress can have a negative effect on ovulation. For women who are ovulating, the stress of trying to get pregnant will often not cause fertility issues. However, as couples are trying to conceive and the longer the process goes on, sexual activity becomes more of a chore than a pleasurable experience.”
Boy, you’re telling me. By day five of marathon sex during my fertile window, both my husband and I were dreaming of the day when we could just come home from work and sit on the couch and watch Netflix and really chill. You know it’s too much when your husband asks, “Do we have to have sex tonight?”
Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California agrees, and tells Romper, “The problem is that when people really want a baby, the act of trying becomes stressful and I think impedes fertilization. We know that in times of stress, our cortisol levels are elevated. Naturally, the body will try not to allow fertilization if the body is in a state of stress. This part of infertility has been difficult to treat, but reproductive endocrinologists recognize this link and many recommend acupuncture in conjunction with infertility treatments to help reduce stress.”
If you’re stressed and unable to relax, it impacts your relationship quite a bit and may even diminish the frequency you have sex with your partner, which obviously diminishes the odds of conception, Dr. David Diaz, reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper. “When the level of stress reaches a chronic, steady state, it transforms the quest for pregnancy into an obsession at the expense of family and social life. This level of pressure cannot continue unabated and ultimately will have a physical and emotional impact, underscoring the need to seek counseling.”
So with all that said, what the heck do we do? Bohn says, “While I cannot quote a specific study, I can tell you anecdotally that I have many patients who conceive while going on vacation.” Ruiz agrees and says that he always recommends to patients that they go on vacation or take a long weekend away when the woman is ovulating. “I remind couples that sexual activity should also be pleasurable — come up with romantic ideas to enhance lovemaking so the act of getting pregnant no longer feels like work. So while there is no strong clinical evidence that demonstrates the stress of trying to conceive affects fertility, anecdotal evidence suggest that relaxing helps.”
Honestly, this anecdotal evidence seemed to work for my husband and me. For the first time in months and months, I didn’t track exactly when I was ovulating, and just kinda did it when we wanted to during my fertile period. And guess what? We are expecting a baby boy in May. I know it’s frustrating and the last thing you think you can do is relax about the entire situation. But trust me, it really does help if you try. Plan a vacation for just the two of you and enjoy your time together. You never know — a baby may be made while you’re having so much fun. Good luck.