IVF Babble

How do we not stress about stress during fertility treatment??

One of the most irritating things anyone can say to a man or woman who is struggling to conceive, is “try not to stress!! I bet you as soon as you stop stressing, you will fall pregnant”

But how on earth does someone who is overcome with fear and anxiety at the prospect of perhaps never becoming a mother or father, stop stressing about stressing?? How do you put aside that stress and fear and simply relax?

We turned to Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy) and asked us for some guidance on how to try at least try and manage stress. Sue’s advanced independent study for her MSc looked at IVF, nutrition, and lifestyle in depth, so we we knew we were in safe hands when she said she had some suggestions.

Over to Sue Bedford….

Stress, unfortunately, is part of everyday life, but for many going through fertility treatment, stress levels can rocket to new levels of high!

We are most prone to stress overload when we have a lack of control over our circumstances and lack the vital skills or resources to cope with those circumstances. There is much we cannot control about fertility treatment, but we can develop the skills and resources to cope, and we can in fact think about how we can best support ourselves. The areas that you may wish to consider planning are those around time, money, lifestyle and relationships. These are the areas that you can do something about.

Exciting new research

It has long been thought by doctors that stress has a negative impact upon fertility treatment and still is believed by many, that stress hormones can make cycles irregular and interfere with other hormones. Indeed, there are some studies that support this, however, the good news is that recent research has found that feeling stressed about fertility treatment doesn’t affect your chances for fertility treatment success.

One large research study, conducted by Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, looked at the data from fourteen studies, which included a total of 3,583 women. They found that the level of pre-treatment anxiety or depression did not affect pregnancy rates- the women with high anxiety were just as likely to conceive during treatment as those with lower anxiety.

Top tips to help you manage stress during fertility treatment.  


  • Practice positive thinking and positive self-talk. Soothing words like, ‘just take one step at a time’ can help keep you on track.
  • To reduce anxiety, choose your IVF/fertility treatment team carefully. Make sure you feel comfortable with your treatment team and that your questions are answered adequately.
  • Does your chosen clinic have good success rates? Ask for the success rates to be explained if you are unsure of what they mean.
  • Find out in advance about the process that you will undergo and what could happen next if successful. Also prepare yourself for the possibility of being unsuccessful and provide yourself with strategies for what happens next. Clinics should have counselling support so check out what is on offer beforehand.
  • Consider joining a support group (some clinics have these periodically) where people going through fertility treatment can chat things through – sharing experiences can be a help to many people.


  • Consider who you are going to tell that you are going through treatment. You should understand what information you are comfortable with sharing, and with whom, as it can be an extremely personal experience and occasionally emotive subject.

Fresh Air

  • Get out into the fresh air for a walk each day- this helps with relaxing the mind and reducing stress.

Eat foods that we know help reduce with stress and anxiety

  • Blueberries (rich in vitamins and phytonutrients (plant nutrients), with a variety of antioxidants that are considered extremely beneficial for relieving stress).
  • Wholegrains (rich in magnesium, a deficiency of which can contribute to being more stressed/anxious. Also contain tryptophan which is converted to serotonin- a calming neurotransmitter).
  • Dark chocolate (the purer the better! Chocolate reduces cortisol – the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms. There are also compounds inside dark chocolate that improve mood).
  • Acai berries (high in phytonutrients and antioxidants).
  • Seaweed, high in magnesium and tryptophan, and are a good alternative to wholegrains for those who are gluten sensitive.
  • Turkey (contains tryptophan).
  • Turmeric (contains curcuminoids which are antioxidants and help enhance mood).
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (help decrease inflammation and prevent cortisol and adrenaline from spiking).
  • Avocados (contain potassium which can help to lower blood pressure. Also contain B vitamins and monounsaturated fats which are important for neurotransmitters in the brain).

To summarise

  • Practice self care
  • Understand the stages of your treatment, by asking your clinic as many questions as you need to
  • Get regular fresh air
  • Eat foods that are known to reduce stress
  • Decide who you want to communicate with and how much you want to share
  • Take one step at a time

To book a Fertility Nutritional Therapy Consultation/package with Sue please contact her at sbnutrition@btinternet.com



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