The topic of fertility can be freaky. Since many young women spend their 20s (and some of their 30s) actively trying to not get pregnant, trying to conceive can come with a lot of question marks. Most of the time medical professionals focus on the physical ways to prep for a baby — prenatal vitamins, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise (for good reason: a healthy body helps support a healthy pregnancy). But giving your mental health a little TLC matters, too.
At the Fertility Unfiltered event in Los Angeles, hosted by Nature Made and SHE Media on June 6, panelists Alli Kasirer founder of maternal wellness platform ROBYN, Olya Hill, founder of the modern lifestyle and parenting brand LivingNotes, and Keri Marshall, N.D., a naturopathic doctor and director of scientific affairs for Pharmavite discussed the importance of mental health when you’re trying to conceive.
“I have heard said that it’s the energy of complete calmness and complete unity and complete balance that makes space for another being to be in your life,” said Hill.
Here, their main takeaways as to why emotional wellbeing is such an important part of a strong foundation while trying to conceive.
1. Because trying to get pregnant can be super stressful
No matter where you are in the process, trying to get pregnant can be daunting (am I timing things right? How long will this take?) and there’s a lot that’s out of your control. Even more: Some research suggests that if you’re struggling with infertility, stress and depressive symptoms can be comparable to patients with medical conditions like cancer.
That’s problematic for a few reasons. First, a spike in stress hormones can mess with fertility, Hill said on the panel. But also, feeling down, anxious or worked up can leave you feeling like you’re suffering alone (you’re not!), which can be incredibly isolating, Kasirer added.
Finding some outlet of support — talking with friends, specialists, or a therapist, and taking control of what you can control (things like your diet, your exercise routine, communicating about what you’re experiencing) — can help, Kasirer said.
2. Because you have to learn to mother yourself before you can mother someone else
Think about it like putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others. “You’ve made this big life decision — it’s one of the most selfless things you can do, but you need to treat your body like a temple,” Marshall said at the Fertility Unfiltered event.
Carving out time for you — relaxing, sleeping, building in time for restful and restorative practices — helps build a strong body and mind that not only will power you through your day-to-day but will also help you once you become a mama. “This could also also help you naturally to get pregnant,” Marshall said.
The sooner you start to focus on yourself, the better, added Kasirer.
3. Because pregnancy can be tough and unpredictable.
Hill (who has seven kids) admitted on the panel that all of her pregnancies were difficult. She dealt with uncomfortable symptoms, the fear of the unknown, and trying to manage ever-changing relationships, all of which can be confusing and hard. And as the panelists noted, even if you had one easy pregnancy, your next could be totally different.
Having a strong foundation of mental health to build off of helps you navigate the various situations that can present themselves while you’re trying to conceive and while you’re pregnant.
Just remember: You don’t have to do it all alone. A naturopathic or functional doctor can offer perspective and information you may not have otherwise been privy to, guiding you along your journey, Hill noted.
4. Because learning to let go a little bit matters big time
Sure you want to get pregnant in one month or one year and you want to follow a set plan you have laid out, but that’s not always how things go, Marshall said. Not only can meditation, mindfulness, and even something as simple as one deep breath be “physiological game changers,” according to Marshall, these practices can also help you live in the now and “let go” of the stress and anxiety that can impede so many women’s worries surrounding fertility.
Learning to focus and refocus your attention — on things you love doing or on spending quality time with your partner — can also help take the pressure off, letting everything naturally fall into place, Hill said. And even though you’ve probably heard this countless times, it’s important to remember: While everybody is different, so often, it’s right when you stop trying that you actually get pregnant.
5. Because postpartum self care matters, too
A body that’s been through a lot, a baby who won’t stop crying, having your schedule thrown completely on its head overnight? That all requires patience, a whole lotta self love, and some serious self care. If you’ve been practicing all of this from day one, it’s going to help you through pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood when things arguably get even more challenging, Kasirer said.
On top of making time for you when you can, don’t ignore your diet. “Your brain is 60 percent fat,” Marshall said. So make sure you fill up one healthy omega-3s — try two-plus servings of seafood a week — or supplements, including prenatal vitamins, to make sure you’re you’ve got enough stores during both during pregnancy and postpartum to keep your brain in tip-top shape. Omega-3s have neuroprotective benefits to aid mood and help you maintain a healthy brain throughout life, she noted.
6. Because with kids, you have to be prepared to pause
All of those deep breaths or yoga classes you’ve been taking as you deal with the challenges of trying to conceive? They’ll come in handy later with kids, when you need even more patience and stress-busting powers, the panelists said.
As with other healthy habits, building these practices into your routine earlier is best so you can pull from them when you need them.
7. Because it can help you have hard convos
Got prying aunts and uncles? Parents and in-laws just itching to become grandparents? The questions and comments that inevitably arise around your pregnancy (or lack thereof) can be exhausting and annoying. It practically goes without saying that a little bit of mental toughness can help you handle these conversations.
Setting boundaries — something you can work on with a therapist or just with some time for self-reflection — can help you format responses to shoulder everything from unwanted advice to intrusive questions. “People just say the wrong things sometimes,” Kasirer said. Dedicating a little bit of time toward thinking about how you’re going to respond in ways that works for you can help keep stress levels stable.
8. Because it can bring you closer with yourself and your partner
Tuning into your authentic self takes time and practice but it can help you build self-confidence and be honest with both yourself and others, Kasirer said.
And it seems obvious but during the nine-plus months of pregnancy, you’re pregnant and your partner is … not. Their relationship with the baby might not start until they actually meet the baby, Marshall noted to the audience. Being in a good place with your own mental health can help you understand where they are coming from, and that’s something that can help strengthen your relationship as a couple throughout your entire pregnancy.
This post is sponsored by Nature Made Prenatal Vitamins.