Just relax?

Infertility has got to be one of the biggest sucker-punches to the heart that exists.

I know several couples who have had difficulty conceiving, and still more who cannot conceive naturally. It sucks.

One of my friends didn’t go on birth control until the month before or the month of her wedding, and then found out that birth control pills take about 3 months to really kick in, so she was a little worried for the first few months of her wedding. A few years later, they began trying to conceive, and could not. Ironic, huh? After some time of trying, they did the testing and discovered pretty quickly that it was male factor infertility. I don’t know the details, but they would have had to have done a lot of assisted reproduction technology in order to have a baby together (or it may have even been impossible). This couple became foster parents and eventually adopted. Interestingly enough, the man’s brother is likewise sterile.

One of the things that has to really hurt is the people who come up to an infertile couple and say, “just relax and you’ll conceive — you’re trying too hard.” Sorry, guy, but relaxing won’t cause sterile testicles to produce sperm. It also doesn’t take into consideration that these people just assumed they’d be easily able to have children, when they first decided it was time — therefore, it is unlikely that they were too tense for the first few months of trying to conceive. Only when the months kept going on and on, and turning into years did it probably become “unrelaxed.”

Another friend of mine couldn’t find her diaphragm for her honeymoon, and was trying to figure out if she was in the fertile time of her cycle or not. She didn’t get pregnant on her honeymoon and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then a few years later, they began trying to conceive and couldn’t. She lost 50 pounds and conceived. She didn’t need to relax — she needed to lose weight!

Two couples in our church had years of infertility; one woman was diagnosed with endometriosis and given little hope, and the other woman was declared a medical mystery and given no hope. After several years of childlessness, both women suddenly became fertile, with the first woman having 5 children, and the second woman having 9 children. Relaxation didn’t help them. The first couple did start an adoption process and then she became pregnant the first time; so they stopped the process, and she had a miscarriage. Talk about another kick in the gut! The following year she became pregnant again, and has not had another miscarriage. Apparently the first pregnancy “cured” her endometriosis, because she never had to “try” to get pregnant.

It might appear that starting the adoption process did help her get pregnant, but that’s just an anecdotal story. You hear stories like that because they are rare and ironic. But there are far more people who begin the adoption process and never get pregnant than those who do.

Another two couples I know are sisters who have the same cause of infertility — something knotted or twisted in their fallopian tubes, I think. Both women tried not to conceive for the first few years of marriage, then could not conceive when they tried. They have since adopted children — one has two children from Ethiopia, and the other has adopted a 4-year-old and is in the process of adopting another boy who is about 6. Adopting their children did not cause their infertility to go away; and relaxing would not miraculously cure their fallopian tubes.

Another couple I know have been married for many years, and I heard that the man was sterile because he had a high fever as a child which killed his sperm-making ability. Just in this past month, I’ve found out that the woman is pregnant. I’m not getting into their business, so I don’t know if it was a natural conception (and miraculous cure on his part, or else I was misinformed on his condition to start with), or if they used donor sperm, or if perhaps they were able to use his sperm after all in assisted reproduction. But if he was rendered sterile at the age of 5, then relaxing at the age of 25 or 30 won’t make sperm production kick in.

That being said, there are some factors of infertility that are reversible — like my friend whose infertility was caused by being overweight. Sometimes being underweight can also cause infertility (I remember reading about some of the Olympic gymnasts who stop menstruating, or don’t ever start, because they are so small and underweight — it’s like their bodies recognize that they cannot support and grow another person, so ovulation and menstruation is suppressed). Diet can also be a factor — I read a year ago or so about a study that was done in which infertile women were followed for several years, and filled out questionnaires about a lot of different things; then at the end of the study, the researchers looked through the data, and discovered that there were several dietary factors that the women who had a live birth had in common. Women who never conceived, or who had miscarriages, did not have these factors. The researchers have written a book about it, and it may be of assistance. I do believe that nutrition is very important, so this just makes sense to me.

Yes, stress can also cause things to screw up — it can speed up or delay your menstrual cycle, cause headaches, etc. So a few infertile people may find that they do just need to get away from it all and relax. But the overwhelming majority of people will not find relaxation to be helpful in overcoming infertility. And I’m sure it’s very hurtful to them to be told that that’s all they need to do because your husband’s cousin’s step-daughter’s best friend successfully overcame infertility that way.


6 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I am struggling with infertility due to PCOS and it breaks my heart when people tell us to “just relax” and “let mother nature take her course.” We have been trying for a year and a half. I have been poked, prodded, medicated, and endured some painful procedures. When my husband and I decided to take four months to do just that- relax and let mother nature take her course- I did not ovulate nor have a period that entire time. For couples enduring all the heartwrenching pain that infertility gives us, the words of people who are able to conceive naturally can really sting. 😦 Your post made so many good points, and thank you for that!

  2. BTDT…yeah, relaxing doesn’t have much to do with it most of the time. We tried for several years to get pregnant (male factor infertility). We even tried a cycle of IVF, which didn’t take. Then we got pregnant the next month on our own. Go figure. I highly suspect that dh’s very low sperm count came from the extensive home renovations we had been doing at the time. On top of everything else we were doing, he did a lot of heating & scraping of lead paint without wearing a respirator. We got pregnant about 6-7 months after we moved from that house. And obviously his sperm count is good enough that we were able to get pregnant a second time, too.

  3. March of course is Endo Awareness month…I hope you have a pain free life! This is a terrible disease…

    for anyone who comes across info, these are some great sites to check out , too











    following some of the IC diet has helped me with some of the pelvic pain…


    by the way, i truly know lots of stories about couples who adopted or were about to adopt when they had children….it happened a lot more it seems before IVF (ie, my generation of kids)….i know of one family whose parents were sad that they didn’t seem to have kids in the first few years of marriage and then went on to have almost 10 kids over a span of lots of years…

    and i know people who went to IVF far too quickly i think…it’s in God’s hands

    by the way, marilyn shannon had an excellent book on nutrition and fertility

  4. Very nice article! Some good points. We’ve never dealt with infertility, but it looks dreadful from the outside. I’ve learned a lot about it from my friend J.

  5. This is a great reminder. “Just relax” is offered so flippantly (and so often). If only it were actually that easy!

  6. […] Let me say that this is merely one factor, and perhaps not the most important one, as I detailed in this previous post, so it is still hurtful and quite possibly completely untrue to tell someone that he or she […]

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