|Photo courtesy of Monica Wiesblott. "Searching For" Photopolymer Etching with Chine Colle|
Myth #1: Stress causes infertility.
Just reading that makes you stress, doesn’t it? I decided to do some research on where this idea comes from. All that I’ve read comes to the same conclusion:
No one knows for sure what links stress has on fertility, if any; apart from the obvious - Infertility causes stress.
This article from WebMD suggests that the reason why there are so many “unexplained” diagnoses is probably due to stress. There is no science to back up that assertion but it’s what the doctor thinks is true.
Putting on my science hat, the two leading indicators of stress are cortisol and epinephrine. The former being a more lagging indicator and the latter being a more instantaneous peak; something more difficult to monitor. It’s the feeling you get that makes your heart race when you have to slam on the brakes in traffic or you are surprised by someone.
There have been two types of studies: stress surveys of fertile women and stress surveys on IF women undergoing treatments. For the latter category, it was stated that women who reported feeling more stressed ovulated 20% fewer eggs than women who reported feeling calmer. To me, that just tells me that the women who may have had a lesser chance of success knew it and were feeling more stressed. That study was based on “feelings” by the way, and not chemical levels in the body.
However, this study by the British Medical Journal counteracts that assertion. Alice Domar (author of Conquering Infertility) has a very well-written reply but the fact remains that there is no proof of stress causing infertility.
Another commentary concerning an article in the New York Times linking infertility and stress is more in line with my thinking. Does one go through stress while using ART? Absolutely. Does IF cause stress? Of course. Would chances of conception increase for people undergoing mind-body, acupuncture, massage or other therapies? Absolutely! Does stress cause infertility? No.
Stress causes infertility like broccoli causes cancer. It is in the extremes. But there are always exceptions. A woman who works full-time while undergoing IF treatments may seem stressed. But as that last article pointed out, over the long-term, women with high cortisol levels actually had a greater chance of conception! Shielding yourself from average daily stresses won’t increase your chances. Meanwhile, one episode of “Intervention” should show anyone that it doesn’t matter how truly stressed (unhealthy food habits, drug use, physical abuse, joblessness, etc.) some women are and they will still conceive.
My verdict is that stress reduction methods are helpful and if you want to use them, do so! But do not argue that stressing about taxes or Christmas is causing me to fail to conceive every month. There are many reasons, known and unknown for a failed cycle. Telling a woman that she is too stressed is right up there with telling a woman to “just relax”. It’s unfounded, unproductive, and almost always has the opposite effect.
Written by: Stephanie from Arizona (editor, Ladies in Waiting Book Club)
|Photo courtesy of Monica Wiesblott. She Found Herself Falling Down a Very Deep Hole Photopolymer Etching|
Myth #2: Just relax and you'll get pregnant.
As someone dealing with infertility, I hear it all the time, “Just relax and it will happen.” These six little words, as innocent as they sound, can be some of the most damaging advice that anyone can offer to someone suffering from one of the most common and least discussed diseases known to mankind.
Today, one in eight couples struggle with infertility, and I am one of them. Most infertile women and men suffer silently because of the shame associated with the inability to bear children and/or to avoid the painful comments and unsolicited advice offered by so many loved ones, friends, and casual acquaintances. Often this advice and these comments are meant to help, but instead they are painful and hurtful and make one feel even worse and less likely to reach out for support.
Telling someone who is infertile to just relax is being interpreted as you are too stressed out and you are to blame for your inability to get pregnant or carry a baby.
The most recent research published by scientists at Cardiff University has shown that stress does not hamper a woman’s ability to conceive. Infertility does cause stress and can be emotionally crippling over time. We have tried massages, vacations, acupuncture, exercise, meditation, prayer, and any other form of relaxation and still no baby.
When you know someone is dealing with infertility, the best thing you can do is listen, offer a hug, and let her or him know that they as a couple are in your thoughts. Don’t offer advice; we know what options are available. Most couples dealing with infertility have done their research and know the costs (financial, emotional, physical, and/or mental) which are involved with fertility treatments, adoption, and living childfree not by choice. If we bring up the topic, then ask away. Just please don’t tell us to relax!
Written by: Nancy from Florida (editor, Ladies in Waiting Book Club)
|Photo courtesy of Monica Wiesblott. My Branch of the Tree Archival Photograph|
Myth #3: Just relax, go on vacation, and be patient. It will happen.
The problem with busting myths is that there is often some relevant story, somewhere, that supports them.
I’ve just finished reading Trying to Conceive: True Stories of How Couples Overcame Infertility (edited by Michaela Ryan) and without exception, every one of the 15 couples had to “relax” and “let go” – both supposed fertility myths.
My own mother maintains that if and when I “give up”, it will happen. She also frequently says we should “take a vacation”. She says that in our family women either conceive immediately, like she did: immediately after going off the pill, or wait, like her younger sister – who married early and had children later in her life. My cousins are younger than me (and incidentally having many offspring). So that continues the myth of “Patience, you must wait.”
Let me say, at the outset: I love my mother. She is an expert in breastfeeding and nobody has my interests at heart more than her. She really wants me to be a mother. But because she comes from a place of fertility, she lacks understanding of where I am. So she vacillates between these myths and comforting sayings of how I will still have a full life if I am childless, that at least I will get my sleep etc… The point is she is trying, in her own misguided way, like many of the fertiles out there, to help.
The problem I have with sitting there, waiting, trying to relax, is that with every passing fertile year, opportunities are missed for a healthier child with more healthy eggs. If I can give Mother Nature a hand here, I’m absolutely going to do that. After all, this is my life. I need some control in a situation which is seemingly beyond control.
I have to say that everything I have learned about fertility has helped me to make better decisions along the way. I mean, just imagine, if I turned my back on all this information, kept drinking coffee and guzzling sweets, made no attempt to change my diet, did not seek any professional help, etc.. how would that get me pregnant?
To be honest, five years on, I have officially given up on natural conception. We have tried it – with the diet, with the homeopathic stuff. Now I’m in a more realistic place of what we can and cannot achieve. We are going to need some artificial help, along with natural assistance. I have just learned a whole whack of stuff about where my body is at from my homeopath /acupuncturist, and I know for sure that if I hadn’t made the effort to go there, I wouldn’t have known it, and would have no chance of improving the situation.
To really achieve some kind of victory over the monster of infertility, one needs to have even one little bit of control. If I can choose to cut out caffeine and sugar, and get needles stuck in me, take loads of vitamins and potions - I will do it. I will not let go. I will not leave my family to chance. There may come a point when we are advanced in age and we have to give up for real. I promise you I very much doubt there will be a pregnancy then. We will have to turn to adoption. That is the reality. And all these romantic notions of letting go and taking vacations are just that – romantic stories. They happen to other people. Not to us.
Oh and here is proof of the “just relax” myth. In a review of data covering more than 3,500 women undergoing in vitro fertilization or other fertility treatments, British researchers found no difference in pregnancy success rates of women who were stressed and those who were not. One of my very close friends told me she fell pregnant when they were moving house, a time of great stress.
So how do we cope with these myths and well-meaning advice from others?
With humor. And stoicism.
In my blog, I have written a bunch of funny answers to the irritating question: "So, when are you going to have kids?" They range from the environmental “I'm part of The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement” to the humorous: "Why, are you selling some?
But it is the cold hard steely determination that will win you over in the end. Your ability to hang in there for as long as it takes (and knowing when to give up) is what will help the most in these trying times. To hear “just relax” and “take a vacation” for the thousandth time and crack a knowing smile is priceless, after all you have spent on fertility.
Because you are the one who really knows the truth. Written by: Heather from South Africa Visit her blog: Survive Infertility and Thrive
What RESOLVE says about the advice - Just Relax:
Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.
Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.
These comments can also reach the point of absurdity. As a couple, my husband and I underwent two surgeries, numerous inseminations, hormone treatments, and four years of poking and prodding by doctors. Yet, people still continued to say things like, "If you just relaxed on a cruise . . ." Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.
Learn more about Infertility at Resolve's website: