4 Ways to Ease Family Planning Stress

Having fertility issues while trying to conceive? Read on for tips to help you stay on track.

a man and woman happily look at the result of a home pregnancy test

Medically reviewed in September 2022

Updated on October 13, 2022

If you have fertility issues and you’re trying to conceive, you may have heard the advice, “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant.” And it seems like everyone has heard a story about someone getting pregnant as soon as they stopped worrying about it.

Not only is this advice frustrating and potentially demoralizing, but research on the links between stress and infertility is anything but clear-cut. There’s still something of a chicken-or-the-egg debate at play. People who struggle to have children tend to be stressed out, but no one knows for sure if that stress actually contributes to infertility.  

A 2014 study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that women who had higher concentrations of stress markers in their saliva were 29 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who didn’t. But a 2011 analysis of studies in the British Medical Journal of women going through fertility treatments found that stress, depression, and anxiety didn’t impact the likelihood women would become pregnant after treatment.    

As a fertility expert and a mother after infertility, I’ve spoken to many people who have struggled to conceive. I’ve noticed several ways that stress and negative emotions do sometimes contribute to the problem. Here are four ways to reduce or eliminate stress and to improve your chances of a successful pregnancy.

Become a cheerleader, not a doomsayer
Think about how you talk to yourself about your fertility. Are you encouraging and supportive, or do you say things to yourself you wouldn’t hope to hear from a friend or relative?

Perhaps you tell yourself, “I’ll never get pregnant,” or “My body is so stupid for letting me down,” or even “I don’t deserve to be a parent.” Statements like these can hurt your motivation and self-esteem. By finding a way to quiet the negative self-talk and switch to positive statements, you could find that:

  • You become your own best friend and cheerleader, supporting yourself every step of the way.
  • You feel much more motivated to do all you can to boost your fertility.
  • You are able to deal with setbacks and negative comments from others (if anyone dares to make one).

Clear out overwhelming feelings
Have you experienced anxiety, worry, anger, sadness, or fear during your fertility journey? It can feel like you’re riding an emotional roller coaster when you react to other people’s pregnancy announcements (while seeing yet another negative pregnancy test of your own). Not to mention having to listen to an inquisitive relative ask naively, “So when will you be starting a family?”

All that pressure, whether self-imposed or from external sources, may have an effect. In fact, women undergoing fertility treatment have reported similar levels of depression as people with cancer.

As negative emotions accumulate and pile on top of your thoughts about fertility options, you may end up feeling overwhelmed. You may even decide to give up or take a break from trying to conceive. But working to ease your negative emotions may help you experience:

  • Clearer thinking about your choices
  • The realization that you have other options and opportunities to boost your fertility
  • The willingness to continue trying to conceive

Recognize underlying fears or worries
It’s perfectly normal to fear childbirth. Perhaps you worry about what kind of parent you will be. Or maybe you’re fearful about how your relationship, career, or body will change if you have a baby. These concerns are worth exploring because they could present themselves as sabotaging behaviors in your everyday life.

For instance, if a fear of childbirth makes you feel subconsciously unsafe when you think of pregnancy, you might miss your fertile window for intercourse.

But if you seek out and resolve fears or worries about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, here’s what could happen:

  • You end up more positively focused on your goal of having a baby.
  • You’re able to make decisions and have tests or treatments more quickly because you have no reason to hold back.
  • Your body and your mind are in tune and focused on achieving pregnancy.

Prepare your mind and body
Being healthy physically and mentally can increase your chances of getting pregnant, reduce the likelihood of complications, and improve your newborn’s health.

Some things you can do to create a healthy start are:

  • Getting regular checkups with a healthcare provider (HCP)
  • Taking a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms (mcg) daily
  • Reaching a weight that’s healthy for you
  • Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity each week and performing strength training twice weekly
  • Not smoking, using illegal substances, or drinking alcohol excessively; if you struggle with any of these, seek help from an HCP
  • Focusing on eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, with moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and protein daily

Everyone has different goals for starting a family and a different vision of what an ideal family might look like. Just remember that infertility, if that should be your experience, does not have to be the end of your family goals. You can also explore surrogate options as well as adoption if conceiving does not ultimately work out for you.

Article sources open article sources

Lynch CD, Sundaram R, Maisog JM, Sweeney AM, Buck Louis GM. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study--the LIFE study. Human Reproduction. 2014;29(5):1067-1075.
Domar AD, Zuttermeister PC, Friedman R. The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 1993;14 Suppl:45-52.
Rooney KL, Domar AD. The relationship between stress and infertility. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2018;20(1):41-47.
Boivin, J., Griffiths, E., & Venetis, C. A. (2011). Emotional distress in infertile women and failure of assisted reproductive technologies: meta-analysis of prospective psychosocial studies. British Medical Journal (Clinical research ed.), 342, d223.
Nutrition Before Pregnancy. University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed August 26, 2022.
Getting ready for Pregnancy: Preconception health. March of Dimes. Last reviewed September 2020.

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