Be Kind to Yourself

One of the best parts of my job, is getting to know individuals and hearing their “story.” I love learning about occupations, interests, and their goals for a family. I spend a lot of time listening to my patients so that I can fully grasp all that my patients have been through leading up to their visit with me.

I have to be honest: I’m saddened by how hard my patients are on themselves. There is so much unnecessary blame and justifying in fertility. For example, a common thing I hear can be something like the following: “I love coffee, but after trying to conceive for so long I gave it up. I miss it but I’m willing to give up anything in order to prove that I’m ready for a family.” Does this sound familiar to you? First off, you can drink coffee. Secondly, please try to be kind to yourself.


Research suggests that kindness and mindfulness will not only help you cope with fertility struggles, but may even improve your outcomes. Unfortunately, this important step is often overlooked in many fertility clinics. I try to address the potential benefits these practices may have with my patients.

As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I will be the first to admit that I have very high expectations that I set for myself. When I fail to meet a certain goal that I’ve set for myself as a physician or a mom, I beat myself up about it. My advice to you: try kindness instead. Pretend a friend told you the exact same story. How would you react to your friends’ tribulations?

Life is stressful and that won’t change, even once you get pregnant. We can’t control the stressors in our life but we CAN control how we react to them. So please, consider being kind to yourselves and help me support you through this fertility journey.

A prospective study using Hatha Yoga for stress reduction among women waiting for IVF treatment

Fertility treatment is stressful. Worse still, there is evidence that stress can reduce your chances of achieving a successful pregnancy. For both of these reasons we’re aggressively seeking ways to help our patients reduce their stress. Here is another excellent study demonstrating the incorporating a yoga practice into the lead-in time to fertility treatment is one effective strategy. Smile, breathe and read on:

Sleep Can Affect Male Fertility

The impact of lifestyle upon male fertility is very difficult to study and therefore rarely gets much scrutiny. In previous posts, I have referenced studies on how healthy sleep and melatonin levels impact egg quality. Now we have a new study that found that men that sleep less than 6 hours per night or more than 9 hours per night seem less fertile than those within the 6 to 9 hour time range. Although further research would be needed to confirm the validity of this study, it could be that sleep is impacting your ability to conceive with your partner.

Stress: not only can it reduce your chance of successful pregnancy but simple steps can provide relief

Posted by Robert Greene, M.D. at
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Recently, I tweeted on study that got some attention in the media by demonstrating that “medical clowning[G1] ” can improve the pregnancy rates achieved through IVF treatment. I feel compelled to follow up with a post to be certain that patients going through fertility treatment seriously consider the benefits of laughter.

          “Stress” is the hormonal response of your body to unsettling circumstances. These hormone shifts can improve your ability to respond and correct these uncertain situations or they can fester, resulting in chronic changes that have a negative impact upon your health. Your response to any given stress-inducing situation is highly individualized but can result in changes in cortisol, epinephrine, prolactin, growth hormone, insulin, glucagon, thyroid hormones as well as those involved in the recruitment and development of eggs and sperm. So although the “stress response” is present in all of us; our ability to quantify and study it remains very difficult.

          Not only can stress impact your chance of a successful pregnancy; it can also effect your choices during treatment. One study [G2] found that patient’s experiencing greater personal stress, underestimated their risk of having a multiple pregnancy resulting in a request for higher number of embryos to be transferred. Even worse, the treatment regimens themselves [G3] can trigger stress. This was demonstrated in study involving patients in the USA, UK and France indicating that it was a unique response to one society or environment.

          Most patients understand the impact that stress can have upon their success. I experienced this firsthand when my wife and I were going through treatment. That’s why I take great joy in sharing practical tips that anyone can take to relieve their own stress response.

v   Go see a funny movie—studies [G4] show that just anticipating laughter can lower reduce stress hormones. Better still, a really good belly laugh and normalize stress hormones for nearly two days!

v   Simple breathing exercises can reduce stress hormones. These can be performed anywhere. An I-phone app [G5] that I recommend to my patients is called Health for Breath—Pranayama.

v   Consider meditation—various forms of meditation have been shown to trigger the relaxation response; thereby inactivating the stress response. Guided meditation CD’s can take you through the process including some that are particularly geared towards couples dealing with infertility.