While it may seem like making a baby is as easy as deciding you're ready and having an intimate night with your husband, the reality is that struggling to conceive and infertility are more common than you think. According to the CDC, 6.1 million women of childbearing age in the United States struggle to get and/or stay pregnant. Chances are, you have or will have a friend that has to, at some point, carry this burden.
When I got married, I was so hopeful for a honeymoon baby. Instead, nearly an entire year into marriage, my husband and I found ourselves still childless. Every month, I tried to fight back the tears when, instead of celebrating over a positive pregnancy test, I got visited by my familiar friend Flo. I went to appointment after appointment, got blood drawn more times than I could count, and read about every article on female fertility that I could find. I wish I had a friend give me the advice that I now give my friends who find themselves in this lonely-feeling little boat: take a two-month vacation.
Obviously, I don’t mean jet off to Venice for two months (though that would be an absolute dream). I’m talking about a two-month mental and physical break. Your friend is likely completely drained from trying to conceive. It’s wild how quickly trying to get pregnant can consume your entire being, weigh on your relationships, take up all of your mental space, and exhaust you. Ironically, this mental and physical burden is probably making it even more difficult to get pregnant!
Countless studies have demonstrated a link between stress and difficulty conceiving. Stress can lead to hormonal imbalance, which can lead to anovulation. Stress can also affect implantation, blood flow to reproductive organs, and even just lower your libido. Mental stress (i.e. insanely long to-do list), emotional stress (i.e. a fractured relationship with a family member), and physical stress (i.e. chronic undereating) can all negatively impact your body and, therefore, your chances of getting pregnant.
For me, it was a combination of my type-A personality, intense exercise, a lingering eating disorder, and the ever-increasing stress of still not being pregnant that contributed to my nearly year-long struggle to conceive. Ultimately, what I needed was to slow down and rest.
So, this is why I now recommend the two-month vacay to my gal pals who find themselves struggling like I did. What exactly does this look like? There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for this break, but there are a few key components: de-stressing and resting, decreasing exercise amount and intensity, and increasing caloric intake.
Trying to conceive can be one of the most stressful times in a woman’s life, so taking a step back can be just what her heart, mind, and body need.
Rest for the Mind and Body
De-stressing, for many, involves ditching the apps and charts and test strips and whatever else it is that your friend may be using to track her cycle. While this stuff is all extremely good and helpful, it can quickly become a source of stress when things just aren’t adding up or working out. If your friend admits she’s obsessing over things, gently suggest that she quit charting for the next two cycles. Of course, if she’s working with a doctor and this information is vital for a diagnosis, that may not be the best course of action right now. But if not, some weeks without checking her temperature might be the mental rest she needs.
You can also suggest that she use this freed-up mental space to engage or re-engage in some therapeutic hobbies or activities like painting, gardening, or learning the ukulele. It might also be nice to pick up some good literature instead of futilely Googling “tips for conceiving.” Loan her some of your favorite books.
De-stressing will also mean taking the stress out of sex. Remind her that intimacy with her husband isn’t supposed to be solely for the purpose of creating new life. That is, of course, often the beautiful outcome. But it’s also so much more than that! It should be uniting her to her husband! Tell her to pull out that cute dress she bought with you when you went to that little boutique downtown, go on a date with her hubby, and let her hair down!
Tell her that physical rest is just as important as mental rest. Encourage her to take a step back from work if she can, go to bed earlier, take naps when the opportunity arises, and just do less. If she’s like most American women today, she’s spending her days going, going, going. She probably needs to say “no” to a few more things, go home, and put her feet up.
No More Cardio and HIIT
On that note, if your friend is hitting the gym multiple days a week, you might recommend that she skip those HIIT classes for the next couple of months. Exercise is not bad. In fact, when done properly and in moderation, it can boost your fertility; but when it’s overdone and you’re already stressed out, it will have the opposite effect. Studies have shown that women who exercise excessively and too intensely have a higher risk of anovulation. Let your friend know that walking and other low-impact, lower-intensity workouts might be helpful for her overall health. If she’s not ready to totally give up the gym life, suggest a workout regimen that respects her cycle, like the free feminine fitness app 28.
Eat Up, Buttercup
When you’re on vacation, you tend to be a little more laid-back with your dietary choices. I’m not suggesting that you tell your friend to binge on unhealthy food for two months, but you might suggest that she say “yes” to ice cream with her husband more often, spend more time planning and preparing delicious and nutritious meals, and, especially if she tends to skip meals, restrict, or undereat, to just eat more. Fueling her body with nutrient-dense foods like eggs, seasonal fruits, fatty fish, grass-fed beef, and full fat dairy will do wonders for her overall health – mental and physical! She may even decide that eating this way should be an enduring lifestyle change.
The two-month vacation might not directly result in a positive pregnancy test for your friend, but it will certainly rejuvenate her. Trying to conceive can be one of the most stressful times in a woman’s life, so taking a step back can be just what her heart, mind, and body need. And don’t forget that your love and support go a long way. So, after you gently offer advice, make sure she knows that you’ll always be there for her and that you will help her find joy amidst the struggle!
Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.