Stress and Fertility – Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

Stress and Fertility

Being Stressed Can Lower Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

The stress you feel in your day to day life causes  your body to produce a variety of different hormones, many of which are not helpful if you are trying to get pregnant.

Adrenaline, one of the stress hormones, signals your body to be ready to run. This is known as “fight, flight, or freeze” response.  This is an evolutionary response that was extremely valuable and kept your prehistoric relatives safe and alive but not so valuable now.  The chance of you being chased down by a bear is very slim but our body doesn’t know the difference between the fight or flight response due to an actual bear or something non life threatening.    Of course, some the the stress you feel in your day to day life can make your life a bit miserable, but you won’t die from that.  Your body doesn’t know the difference though and will produce the same fertility unfriendly hormones in both situations.

Negative Effects of Stress on Fertility

For women, ongoing stress can cause hormone imbalances. If your reproductive hormones are not being produced in the correct amounts, ovulation could be impacted or your uterine lining may not develop enough to sustain a pregnancy.  For men, studies show that stress can have a negative impact on sperm motility, sperm count and sperm morphology.   The stress that both you and your partner experience on a daily basis can make getting pregnant more difficult than it should be.

If you are overly stressed, your libido will probably suffer as well. Honestly, it’s pretty difficult to be “in the mood” when your body’s hormones are saying you might encounter something that needs to be fought or run from. Ultimately, if you are not having sex, the chances of getting pregnant is slim to none.

If your body thinks that a fight is impending, it will not be cooperative in your baby making endeavors. Really, why would you want a baby if a bear could get you both. Yes, I know, there is no bear, but the chemicals and hormones your body pumps out when you are under stress say that there might be!   While this response is valuable when there is a life or death situation, day to day stress doesn’t warrant this bodily reaction. If you are trying to get pregnant, helping your body de-stress will increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Reduce Your Stress By Adopting These Practices

There are many ways you can reduce the stress you encounter in your life. These practices will help calm your mind, allowing your body’s stress response to reset itself. The journey from high stress to healthy reaction to life can be a bit hard but every positive change you make will help retrain your automatic stress responses.

 

Meditation:

Numerous scientific studies have shown that meditation can be an effective way to reduce stress and help build resilience to future stressful situations. Circle and Bloom has a great free meditation that will get you on the path to fertility relaxation.

There are some more specific stress reducing mediation programs available too.

 

Exercise:

In addition to helping improve your overall health, regular exercise can also be an effective stress buster. When you exercise, your brain produces feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. As the endorphins in your body increase, they help counteract the “the bear is going to get me!” adrenaline that stress causes. Less adrenaline means less feelings of stress.

 

Counseling:

Sometimes, everything just seems too overwhelming and stress inducing. A trained therapist can help you help you learn how to effectively deal with the stressors in your life.  When you are in the midst of a stressful situation, chance are you are not seeing things all too clearly. Talking with an uninvolved third party can help bring clarity and hopefully a plan that will help you move forward.

 

Sleep:

Aim for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. When you don’t or can’t get this much sleep, it makes you less able to deal with the normal day to day stress. For women, erratic sleep cycles can throw your hormones off as well. Definitely not what you want if you are trying to get pregnant. You may have to implement some of the suggestions above first to help lower your stress. When you are super stressed, chances are it is making you unable to actually fall asleep as your mind replays all the stress on a loop.

 

 

 

Resources:

Effects of work and life stress on semen quality.
Janevic T, Kahn LG, Landsbergis P, Cirillo PM, Cohn BA, Liu X, Factor-Litvak P.
Fertility and sterility. 2014 May 23; 102(2): 530-538

Effects of stress on reproduction in non-rodent mammals: the role of glucocorticoids and sex differences.
Tilbrook AJ, Turner AI, Clarke IJ.
Rev Reprod. 2000 May;5(2):105-13. Review.

A prospective study of psychosocial stress and fertility in women.
K A Sanders N W Bruce
Human Reproduction, Volume 12, Issue 10, 1 October 1997, Pages 2324–2329,https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/12.10.2324

Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Kabat-Zinn J, Massion AO, Kristeller J, Peterson LG, Fletcher KE, Pbert L, Lenderking WR, Santorelli SF.
Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;149(7):936-43.

Conceiving a Baby Boy – Tips to Increase Your Odds

Ways to increase your chances of having a baby boy.

Whether this is your first baby or your third, you may have your heart set on having a baby boy.  Most of the time, you will have a 50 / 50 chance of that happening.   If you follow some of the suggestions below, you may be able to boost the possibility of having a boy beyond the 50% mark.

How Your Baby’s Gender is Determined

The sex of your baby is determine by the chromosomes  from his mother (her egg) and father (his sperm). The mother’s genetic contribution is a 2 X chromosomes (XX). The father supplies an X chromosome and a Y chromosome.

In order for you to have a baby boy,  the mother supplies a X chromosome and the father donates one of his x chromosomes. Male children will typically have the same chromosome pair as his father, XY. All this happens automatically and you usually don’t have much control in how the chromosomes combine.

 

 

If you only have two possible genders that are available, statistically, your chance of having a boy is 50%, sort of like a coin toss.   Depending on how much money you have, your choices would be a bit limited.  You significantly raise your chances of conceiving a baby of your gender preference, but the path will not be cheap or easy and involves many fertility specialists.    We will cover those options below, but will start with the most common and least expensive ways you can try to influence the gender of your baby to be.

 

Understanding the Shettles Method for Gender Selection

For over two decades, countless couples have relied upon the Shettles Method to influence the sex of their baby. When used properly, the Shettles method claims a success rate between 75 and 90 percent in conceiving the desired gender.

Throughout his book, Dr. Landrum Shettles gives couples techniques to promote the conception of a boy. While the basic outline of the method is below, Dr. Shettles’ book is much more thorough.

The Shettles Method is premised on the idea that boy sperm are smaller in size and less robust but are quicker than girl sperm. (The premise that the male sperm are faster has been refuted by the medical community since Shettles published his work.) The recommendations below derive from Shettles’ understanding.

 

Timing Sex Close to Ovulation

There are three primary ways to time your ovulation properly, including:

  1. Cervical Mucus Charting

    Charting cervical mucus daily is essential to track ovulation. Prior to ovulating, cervical mucus will be elastic and much more watery than usual, resembling raw egg whites. You should chart your cervical mucus for more than a month to increase your chances of predicting ovulation properly.

  2. Charting Your Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

    When used in conjunction with charting your cervical mucus, you can greatly increase your chances of having a boy. To chart your BBT, you need a basal thermometer. You will use this thermometer each morning directly after waking up and prior to doing anything else. Your body temperature will increase after ovulation. Because you’re looking to know when ovulation occurs, it’s important to chart this for a few months before you begin trying to get pregnant. This will help you determine the right times to have intercourse.

  3. Ovulation Predictor Kits

    One final way pinpoint when you will ovulate is by using ovulation predictor kits. The kits are designed to measure when luteinizing hormone, or LH, has been released. This is important because it shows you when ovulation is about to occur. Testing should ideally occur twice daily to best determine the time that this occurs. The best times to test are once between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and once between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Once you get a positive result, ovulation will occur about 24- 36  hours later.

 

Timing Intercourse and its Frequency

As was mentioned above, the best time to have intercourse if you want a baby boy is no more than 24 hours before ovulation and no later than 12 hours after ovulation has occurred. Boy sperm will reach the egg more quickly near ovulation because the cervical mucus becomes slippery and less acidic, providing a favorable environment for the boy sperm’s survival.

 

Whelan Method for Gender Prediction

In her book, Boy Or Girl?, Dr. Whelan suggests that you have sex 4 to 6 days before you ovulate, in order to conceive a male baby. In order to determine when you will be ovulating, she suggests that you chart your BBT temperatures for several months before trying to conceive. The data collected during this time will help you pinpoint when your temperature typically rises about .5 degree – an indication of when you have actually ovulated. Once you know when you are ovulating, you can calculate backwards to help you have sex at the appropriate time to have sex to get pregnant with a boy.

For both the Shettles method and Dr. Whelan’s method, reading the books so you understand the steps involved in order to conceive a child of the desired sex.

Keep in mind, that these methods are not guaranteeing that you will have a boy. Dr Shettles method claims a 80-90% success rate and Whelan’s method has a claimed success rate of 65% when trying to conceive a boy baby. All the methods appear to do is increase your chances of having a boy so try the one that seems the best to you.

Other Gender Selection Tools

You can also try other methods to increase your chances beyond the 50% average that is normally there. They have the same sort of success rate as the books above, but they give you more alternatives to try and sway the gender game in your favor.

Chinese Gender Chart

This chart is supposedly an ancient chinese way of helping you have the baby of your preferred gender. The chart is rumored to have been found in a Chinese tomb over 700 years ago. The Labor of Love has two versions of this chart that you can try. Based on the polling of the people who tried them out, the average accuracy rate is about 65%.

Using an Ovulation Calendar

Babyhopes has a free ovulation calculator that provides guidelines as to when to have sex if you are trying to have a boy. You will need to know how long your cycles are and when your last period arrived in order to use this effectively.

The Big “O” – Orgasm

Orgasms during intercourse should be embraced when trying to conceive a boy because the vaginal environment will become more alkaline following the orgasm, a fact that is favorable to the boy sperm. Additionally, an orgasm will help the boy sperm move up into the cervix and toward the ovum.

 

Conceiving a Boy Can Have a High Success Rate – For a High Cost

If you are undergoing infertility treatments which include an IUI or IVF, you can possibly also add  preimplantation genetic testing of the embryos. This testing typically checks for chromosomal and genetic disorders but the sex of the embryos can also be determined.  Depending on your doctor and clinic, you may be able to say that you only want male embryos transferred.   This genetic testing is almost 100% accurate in determining the gender. Due to ethical reasons, you may have to really shop around to find a practice that is okay with this.

There are a couple of potential issues with using these procedures to make sure you have a baby boy. Cost is a big barrier for most people.  The cost for the IVF with the added genetic testing can run upwards of $20,000.  In addition to the cost, you will have to subject yourself to all sorts of poking and prodding.  In order to harvest your eggs for the procedure, you will have to take fertility drugs to get them ready.  The medications can have unpleasant side effect.  The egg retrieval can be painful as well.

In addition to these, you might have a problem finding doctors / practices that are willing to allow gender selection like this. Using assisted reproductive technology (ART) to select the gender of your baby is currently a very hot topic with supporters both for and against using assisted reproductive technology (ART) to select the gender of your baby.

Why Do I Have Menstrual Cramps Between Periods?

cramps between periods

Having cramps between your periods is unusual, but not unheard of. Regular period cramps happen when your uterus contracts to shed the uterine lining. The actual contraction is what you’re feeling when you experience menstrual cramps. But what does it mean when you have cramps between periods?

Common Reasons for Cramping Between Periods

Mittelschmerz – Ovulation Cramping

When your ovaries release an egg, you may experience a cramping feeling, Mittelschmerz. This feeling lasts for only a few hours, but there are cases where it lasts as long as two days.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can relieve yourself from this type of cramping:

  • Get lots of rest
  • Drink eight or more glasses of water every day
  • Use a heating pad or take a hot bath
  • Take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to prevent inflammation

 

Pregnancy

The most common answer for why you are feeling cramps in the middle of your cycle is that you are pregnant. When the fertilized egg implants in the uterus, sometimes cramping can be felt. For most women, implantation cramping is very mild and not noticeable. For other women, they are very like the cramps that happen when their period arrives. Implantation bleeding sometimes happens, but the spotting doesn’t happen for all women.

This is best detected with a pregnancy test. If you get a positive pregnancy test result, be sure to schedule a visit to your doctor  to start your pregnancy care.

Other Reasons for Cramps

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a reproductive disease. The uterine lining grows and regenerates outside the uterus. The rogue lining can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, colon, abdomen or bladder. Despite being located outside the uterus, the lining bleeds and regenerates itself as it normally would. This may cause other complications like cysts, scarring and infertility. Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infertility

Endometriosis can cause pain during bowel movements, during menstruation and between periods. Your doctor may prescribe medication for temporary pain relief.  Surgery is currently the only permanent answer. A complete hysterectomy may be recommended if the endometriosis is bad enough.

Urinary Tract Infections

UTI’s can cause cramping.  They can also cause other symptoms like a low fever and burning when you urinate. If left untreated, the infection can travel to the bladder creating more serious symptoms. A visit to the doctor for antibiotics will clear up the infection and stop the cramping.

Adhesions

Adhesions are scar tissue that forms between organs and tissues that should not be connected. When the adhesions pull organs in a fashion that’s not typical, pain and cramping can be the result. The scar tissue / adhesions can be a result of previous surgery or an infection. Surgery is the only way to help relieve the pain and cramping that adhesions can cause. Know that the surgery can also increase the risk of more adhesions.


Cramping at times when you do not have your period can be normal or sign that something isn’t right. The cramps may be nothing, as with Mittelschmerz. Or it could be something more serious like endometriosis. Cramping at the time of ovulation or about a week or so later is usually nothing to worry about but if you are having cramps throughout the month, make sure to contact your doctor.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pelvicpain/conditioninfo/Pages/causes.aspx
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/abdominal-adhesions
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000521.htm

Self-Acupressure for Fertility

 

Acupressure is a traditional form of Chinese medical treatment. The basic idea behind it is that many of our body’s ailments are caused by a disturbance in the flow of chi (energy) within our body. Applying pressure to select acupressure points is believed to improve the flow of blood and chi, relieving the problems caused by the blockages. Acupressure is used to treat everything from headaches to nausea to obesity.

Many people believe that acupressure is also effective in treating infertility. It is non-invasive, non-medicinal and safe. There are no side effects. At the very least, trying acupressure won’t hurt you. You can perform most acupressure techniques on yourself.

The acupressure points associated with improving fertility include:

  • Ren 3. The Ren 3 point is on your mid-line (an imaginary line that dissects your body from head to floor), 4” under your naval. When you stimulate this point, it helps your menses, kidneys and bladder. This point should be stimulated during the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle, before ovulation.
  • Ren 4. Ren 4 is one inch above Ren 3. Stimulating this point increases the flow of chi to your uterus. Like Ren 3, it should be stimulated in the two weeks prior to ovulation.
  • Zigong. This point is particularly effective if your infertility is related to menstrual problems. You can find these points (you have two of them) 4” below your belly button and 3” from your mid line. Stimulating them improves the flow of chi to your ovaries and your uterus.
  • St 30. Your St 30 points are located one inch below your Ren 3 point and two inches from your mid-line. Stimulating them helps your fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries.
  • Ki 16. Your Ki 16 points are located level with your naval, one inch from your mid-line. Stimulating them improves the flow of energy to your lower abdomen. This is believed to aid fertility.
  • Ren 12. Ren 12 is located on your mid-line, 4” above your naval. Stimulating Ren 12 helps infertility by helping your body drain harmful fluids which accumulate in your bladder, fallopian tubes, and uterus.

There acupressure points are among the best suited for self-acupressure. To stimulate an acupressure point:

  1. Locate the point.
  2. Apply firm but gentle pressure with your fingertips or thumb for a minute or two. Stop if you feel pain or discomfort.
  3. Apply deep pressure (press down harder) and stimulate the point by moving your fingers or thumb in a circular clockwise motion for about a minute.
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