“Just relax”: Unhelpful advice for women trying to get pregnant

Many women and men experiencing difficulties achieving a pregnancy have heard these words: “just relax and you will get pregnant”. The reality is that relaxing may feel like an impossible task for couples experiencing fertility problems.

Being told to “just relax” when you have been trying to get pregnant, much less when you are dealing with the stress of infertility and medical treatments, just isn’t very helpful and can actually be very hurtful. Although it is usually said to make you feel better, people don’t realize the impact of those words – “just relax” – or just how impossible it can be to relax when you feel like you’re failing at something as important as having a child. Being told that “if you just relax, you’ll get pregnant”, implies that you are somehow responsible for not being able to get pregnant. It suggests that if you could just get your stress under control – and get a grip – nature will take care of the rest.

The reality is that despite all the cliché comments about how easy it is to get pregnant (e.g., “I just have to hang my nightie on the bedpost and I’m pregnant”), for most people achieving a viable pregnancy takes time. And the relationship between stress and fertility is not entirely clear. For example, we know that sometimes women get pregnant during a sexual assault – and there likely isn’t a more stressful situation. On the other hand, there is some research to suggest that stress reduction techniques such as regulated breathing, meditation, and yoga can help people cope with the stress of infertility and may improve the success of IVF. Clearly the relationship between stress and the ability to achieve a pregnancy is very complex.

If you know someone who is trying to get pregnant or who is going through fertility treatments, instead of trying to comfort them by suggesting that they “just relax”, it may be a lot more helpful to provide a supportive ear and shoulder for them to talk about their feelings.

Read more about the likelihood of achieving a pregnancy here.

Read more about the relationship between chronic stress and fertility here.


One Response to ““Just relax”: Unhelpful advice for women trying to get pregnant”

  1. GinaB says:

    The smallest active gestures of care mean the most!

    Need an example? I was recently encouraged by someone who wanted to help. She could see how stressed I was, and offered to make garden space in her yard for me to work on this summer to relive stress (I live in a building)- active love and encouragement!

    Another friend randomly invited me to the spa with her.

    Thanks to the people reading this who want to be an encouragement! Community matters!

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