Nov 30, 2022Preconception

5 Reasons to Prioritize Your Mental Health During Your Fertility Journey

by ELANZA Wellness
5 Reasons to Prioritize Your Mental Health During Your Fertility Journey

The decision to start a family can be an exciting time, but often the journey may not go exactly as planned. The World Health Organization states about 60 to 80 million couples (1) worldwide experience some form of infertility. As such, the number of people using assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IVF has increased by 5% to 10% annually (2). Of course, no one plans on having fertility issues, but by taking some simple steps to protect and enhance our sense of well-being, we can set ourselves up to manage any potential ups and downs of the journey ahead while also developing a solid foundation to become a great parent. No matter what happens, it’s important to remember that this is your journey. By setting boundaries and communicating your needs, you can mitigate stressful or uncomfortable situations. Below are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. 1. Things may not go exactly as planned. 

 

Even in the absence of a reproductive health issue or history of infertility, a growing number of people are struggling to get pregnant. For example, 40% of infertility cases are unknown. That means that nearly half of people trying to conceive have no idea what’s preventing them from reaching their family-building goals. 

 

For some, this starts to manifest into feelings of failure, whether of our own doing or that of the healthcare system. 

From the stigma of infertility to external pressure from friends and family, the prospect of starting a family can be both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly overwhelming.

2. The fertility journey is unlike anything else we may have experienced before

 

For anyone that is having their first child or perhaps is having difficulty conceiving a second, third, or fourth child, the experience can be completely different from anything we’ve experienced before. 

 

There are hormonal changes, relationship challenges, work-life pressures, and other physiological variables that can often lead to challenging mental health issues if not kept in check.

 

For example, studies show that women who are infertile have higher levels of anxiety and despair than their counterparts who are fertile. Higher levels of sadness and depressive symptoms may have an indirect effect on the success of conception. 

 

In the case of IVF, many people drop out of treatment specifically due to emotional distress.

  1. 3. Family-building challenges can take a toll on many different areas of our life, from relationships to finances

 

We often think of fertility and infertility as solely biological concepts. But the fact is that it encompasses so many aspects of life that are directly or indirectly intertwined.

Perhaps an OB/GYN has suggested consulting a fertility specialist. Most fertility treatments are not covered by insurance, which translates to thousands of dollars of unanticipated costs. The growing pressure to reach family-building goals paired with financial pressures can be deeply challenging.

Getting a head start on individual and relationship well-being can make a huge difference in the experience of infertility.

 

In a study on infertility involving 200 couples, more than half of the women said it was the “most upsetting of their life.”

In a similar vein, a sizable study of women with diverse medical problems discovered that infertile women experienced comparable levels of discomfort to cancer and cardiac rehab patients.

4. Challenges may influence friendships and ability to seek support

 

It can be lonely trying to get pregnant and dealing with infertility. People can find it challenging to share in others’ happiness or experience emotional sorrow alone. 

 

Despite the growing number of factors that can impair fertility, many people still report feeling like they are “broken” or “inadequate.” 

 

A New York Times article about the lasting trauma of infertility illustrates how these feelings can become insidious and ingrained in our identity: “Because it can be hard to fully grasp what infertility involves unless you’ve dealt with it personally, many people believe that it’s all about the end game, a baby — that if you could just get to that prize, the pain of infertility would fade away. But infertility is bigger than babies. I say this often because I want people to get it. It truly is. It can affect our physical and mental health in insidious — and sometimes enduring — ways.”  

 

Even seemingly innocent remarks like “just relax and it will happen” can entirely erase the financial, emotional, and interpersonal strain someone may be feeling when people do disclose their conception or fertility issues.

5. Managing stress throughout a fertility journey could improve chances of success

 

Everyone gets stressed. But based on where we are in our life and what our family-building goals are, too much stress can be detrimental to our health and potentially our ability to create the family we choose. 

 

That’s because stress is a hormonal process that can disrupt reproductive hormones tied to fertility and pregnancy. 

 

For example, studies show that higher stress levels are associated with lower odds of conception and up to a 40% decrease in the likelihood of conceiving.

 

When looking at studies focused on people undergoing In-vitro fertilization (IVF), high-stress levels are associated with fewer eggs retrieved, fewer eggs successfully fertilized into embryos, fewer successful embryo transfers, a lower rate of live births, and lower birth weight.

Is stress preventing pregnancy?

 

It all comes down to our emotional well-being. 

 

Stress is both an inevitable and important aspect of everyday life but our emotional well-being is rooted in the ability to manage it, balance it, and swiftly move on from it.

 

Stress is not a universal experience. Meaning that if the same two people experience the exact same stressful event, chances are that they will respond differently and it will impact them differently in the long run. 

 

The person that can identify the stress trigger, manage their feelings around it, and then quickly process it in a healthy way is more likely to maintain their hormonal balance in the face of difficult challenges. This is the premise of emotional well-being. 

 

The good news is that you can train yourself to achieve emotional well-being and thus also achieve the right hormonal balance to conceive. 

 

Everything from loss of income, lay-offs, starting a new job, processing a divorce, navigating a breakup, pregnancy loss, or any change or challenge can be improved with better emotional well-being.

Think about the last challenge or high-stress situation you dealt with…. 

  • How quickly were you to react?
  • Were you able to identify and manage your emotions at that moment?
  • Were you able to understand how those emotions made you feel?
  • How quickly were you able to recover? Do you still feel triggered by that event?

For some, this might be a natural talent, but for others it requires work. For example, people who used ELANZA Wellness’ 1:1 coaching for more than 6 sessions, had a 17% reduction in stress, without medical intervention or therapy.

How to improve emotional well-being while trying to conceive

 

Whether you’re just starting on a fertility journey or have been on it for a while, it’s not too late to start building a foundation of emotional well-being that will be beneficial, now and for the future.

“It’s not always easy to do this kind of deep work. But, for our members that have made the effort to manage and build their emotional health, the results are astounding. It can give people back a sense of control. It can help people navigate the fertility treatment process. And, it can bring a sense of calm and clarity for both partners, even during the hardest times.” - Brittany Hawkins, CEO of ELANZA Wellness

Our range of emotions—and how we manage them—influences our emotional health. Here are nine ways we can control our emotions and feelings, and stay resilient.

  1. 1. Move your body: 

Do some sort of physical activity every 90 minutes. Exercise. Dance. Fold laundry. Weather permitting, get outside. Walk around the block. Run. Visit a park.

 

2. Establish a routine:

Create a schedule that balances the work you do with the life we want. Set time for our meetings. Block space to set goals. Create room to read. Cook a new dish. Listen to music.

 

3. Connect with others: 

Love our family. Check in with those who support you. Ask for help. Learn something out of our comfort zone. Spend time with someone who we respect.

 

4. Forgive:

Forgive others and forgive ourselves. Forgiveness frees us to keep our power. Forgiveness opens the path to living in the moment. Forgiveness allows for growth and happiness.

 

5. Do something for others: 

Offer to do something for someone we know or don’t know, for which we cannot be repaid. Pick up groceries for a neighbor. Volunteer online. Send a thank you note.

 

6. Sleep: 

Healthy sleep gives our body a chance to repair itself. Sleep refreshes our brain to manage our memories and process information. We wake up in a better mood.

 

7. Be kind to yourself: 

What gives us joy? Where are we most at peace? When do we have space to be us? As we are kind to ourselves, we will want to extend that kindness beyond ourselves.

 

8. Be self-aware: 

Notice the thoughts, actions, habits, and character traits that serve us well. And when we spot what needs to change, we’ll be ready. We will simply know.

 

9. Open up and talk it through

Talking with a friend, family, or a professional trained to support you can provide immense relief from thoughts circling your head.

Sometimes we can blow troubles out of proportion and it’s helpful to have an objective perspective or a listening ear to work on the next steps and a solution with you.

 

Talking about general worries and feelings of anxiety doesn’t always sound appealing, but the benefits are proven. It can provide stress relief and can take the weight off your shoulders.

 

Talking about a specific problem can also help to start breaking it into smaller parts, which can stop you from feeling so overwhelmed – especially with the guidance and framework of a professional.

 

Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches, such as ELANZA Wellness coaches, are non-clinical healthcare professionals who do not diagnose or treat mental illness, but who specialize in working with you on practical strategies to address anxiety and move forward more positively.

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ELANZA Wellness

ELANZA Wellness

ELANZA is a personalized wellness platform focused on balancing hormones and improving fertility through stress management and emotional support. 1:1 sessions with a dedicated Health and Wellness Coach offers the key to addressing life stressors head-on, allowing you to reach your family-building goals. At ELANZA, their mission is to help you create the life you choose.

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