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Diet, Stress and Fertility

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a blog by Cindy Bailey of the Fertile Kitchen™, January 25, 2011

When stressed, I used to hit the crunchy starch foods and down more cups of decaf coffee (with cream and sugar) than I cared to count. Of course, these are forbidden on a fertility diet, as is the stress itself!

Healthy Diet Alternatives

Responding to stress by munching on the wrong foods really is a habit, although an ingrained one for sure. You can strategically choose to munch on the right foods instead by making sure you have plenty of them on hand. Some examples include: plenty of already cut and prepared carrot and celery sticks, with some healthy hummus to dip them into; a half-cup of almonds and raisins; a handful of non-wheat crackers with some healthy guacamole to dip them into; crunchy green beans or chopped cauliflower.

When you feel like reaching for that slice of left-over pizza (just this one time) or the candy bowl that sits in your office kitchen, stop and re-direct yourself to one of your prepared healthy options. Make that a habit instead.
Know, also, that when it comes to munching on crunchy vegetables, you can pretty much have as many as you want. With a fertility diet, the goal is absolutely not to lose weight — unless you’re also trying to bring your body mass index (BMI) down to a more fertile zone, slowly over time. No, the goal is to optimize your reproductive and general health. Having small meals or healthy snacksall day long is better for you too.

Eliminating Stress

An even better idea for handling stress, however, is to 1) eliminate the stress in the first place if you can, or 2) train yourself to respond to stress in a whole different way, a healthy way, which I admit, takes time to adopt.

Here are three healthy ways to respond to stress:

  • Deep breathing — in through the nose, out through the mouth slowly, 10 times.
  • Meditation — 20 minutes a day is perfect. Build up to that if you’ve never meditated before. For guided meditation and visuals, my favorite CD programs are Julia Indichova’s images CD and Circle+Bloom’s mind-body fertility programs.
  • Yoga — I loved Brenda Strong’s Yoga 4 Fertility. I would use it two or three times a week because every day was not realistic for me.

Also take a look at the root of your stress. I stress over tight deadlines because I worry there’s not enough time to do a quality job, and I want to look good in front of my clients. Can I give up being a perfectionist and just do a good job? Or can I negotiate a more realistic deadline? Or say no to the project in the first place?

If these suggestions don’t seem to help, do what you can to eliminate the stress. Stress is fertility’s worst enemy. When I was trying to conceive, I worked only minimally. Sure, we suffered financially for it later. But I needed that oasis of time to focus on my healing and fertility — until either I had a baby or needed a break from the trying. I realize not everyone is in a position to do that, but in some way you have to put your health and well-being first. You deserve it!

If the diet itself is stressful, that’s understandable. Change can be stressful. But don’t let that be an excuse to completely deviate from it. Practice healthy eating habits and healthy ways to manage your stress as best you can. Think about what Dr. Angela Wu, an acupuncturist and author of Fertility Wisdom, would say to her fertility patients who complained about following her strict, traditional Chinese Medicine-influenced diet. If a patient said they follow the diet 70 percent of the time, she would respond by gently reminding her that she cannot be 70 percent pregnant.

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