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Getting Pregnant Can Be Harder Than It Looks

Getting Pregnant Can Be Harder Than It Looks

Clearing Your Head

There are some relatively controllable factors that may be slowing down a couple's ability to conceive. For women, they include being too overweight or underweight, eating disorders, excessive exercise, smoking and drinking. For men, smoking and drinking also can reduce sperm count, as can marijuana use and even hot tubs. However, there are also a lot of old wives' tales out there, too. There's no merit, for instance, to common folklore cautioning men that briefs hinder sperm production more than boxer shorts.

As for stress, the jury is still out. There are lots of examples of couples who had trouble conceiving until they cleared their heads and relaxed a little more -- say, they decided to adopt a baby instead, take a trip, or became distracted with moving into a new house. There's even some evidence that depression may cause physiological changes that hinder some women from getting pregnant, says Dr. Alice D. Domar, a clinical psychologist and director of the Mind-Body Program for Infertility at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

It's also true that most individuals juggle a lot of stress in their lives and still manage to get pregnant. But while the mind-body connection continues to be explored, experts say that at the very least, noninvasive stress reduction techniques such as biofeedback and meditation can't hurt. In fact, they'll probably enhance one's overall well-being, making the process of conception -- and pregnancy -- a whole lot more enjoyable.

"I'm convinced that for some people, it's actually why they got pregnant," Dr. Zinaman says. "You can definitely in your head stress yourself enough to throw out your ovulation in subtle ways. What's more, pregnancy itself -- or even going to an infertility doctor and starting treatment -- can be stressful, so with some patients, anything they can do to make this a little more tolerable is going to help them in the long run."

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