“Just try relaxing” has to be one of THE most annoying, patronising, ill-advised and insensitive things anyone can say to someone who is struggling to conceive
Although the “advice” may come from a good place – one of love and compassion, it really does nothing other than stir up rage and sadness. What do they know anyway!
The problem is, although you know the silly comment is, well, silly, you can’t help but wonder…….If you did have the ability to “just relax”, and to stop thinking about trying to get pregnant, would it happen? Could it happen?
You do hear stories, of couples who went through rounds and rounds of IVF, then as soon as they stopped, they suddenly conceived. Was it because they had stopped trying? Was it because they started to live again without the strain of TTC? Or was it just luck?
The problem is, if it is true, if “just relaxing” is the secret key, the bigger and far more difficult question to answer is how?? How on earth do you relax when all you can think about is trying to get pregnant? How do you relax when your body is so tense with fear and anxiety? How do you “switch off” if you are struggling to come to terms with a failed round of IVF. How do you “just relax for goodness sake?!”
We turned to the team at The Fertility Partnership and asked them both questions.
IVFB: If you “just relax”, are you increasing your chances of conception?
TFP: Well, first off, studies using stress and anxiety scores show that couples going through fertility treatment are more “stressed”. So it’s a really tough ask! With regards to conception specifically, there’s a lack of evidence one way or the other. It may be that relaxation doesn’t improve your chances of success or that the studies aren’t big enough or that the tests we have just aren’t sensitive enough to detect any benefits.
Nevertheless, trying to relax can be is a good idea for other reasons: if nothing else, it can help you approach your fertility journey with a more positive frame of mind.
IVFB: How do you advise your patients to “relax”?
TFP: Like the phrase, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, it varies person to person. What some people find relaxing (e.g. lying on a beach) others find incredibly stressful and boring and vice versa!
I personally advise patients to exercise or at least try to get out in the fresh air as much as possible. There is a wealth of data to show that exercise reduces stress scores, and from a fertility point of view exercise also has other benefits (better quality eggs and better quality sperm).
You need to find what’s right for you: whether it’s vigorous exercise, yoga, mindfulness or lying on a beach. Such strategies mean that you will feel better in yourself and approach the fertility journey more positively.
So there you have it, when someone tells you to “just relax”, you can tell them that there is a lack of evidence to prove that theory and so best to change the subject!
To anyone feeling the strain right now, and the pressure of friends and colleagues constantly saying the wrong thing, we send you our love and strength. Drop us a line if you want to share any of your awkward conversations, or moments when you have been told to “just relax”!! (firstname.lastname@example.org)