Education, Infertility

Relax? Are you serious?

April 24, 2011

One of the biggest myths surrounding infertility is that if you’ll just relax, you’ll get pregnant. And, by relax, people either literally mean to not worry about things or in some cases to stop “trying” and just let it happen.

Wrong.

I’m constantly amazed at how prolific this particular myth is. So many people have said this to me over the years in many different ways, but all with the same basic meaning.

Don’t say…

Just relax. First and foremost, infertility is a disease that affects 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age. The definition of a disease is “disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body.” Infertility is due to some malfunction in the body, whether it be hormonal or structural. Ergo, a disease. When people tell me to “just relax,” it’s insulting. Even though most people have good intentions when they say it, it hurts. It somehow insinuates that I have done something wrong. It makes it my fault. I know it’s not true, but it still hurts. It’s an accusation that somehow because of my inability to “relax,” I cannot have a baby.

Stop trying and you’ll get pregnant. People love to share their anecdotes. I have heard several iterations of this — “My cousin’s friend’s sister-in-law tried for a long time and then they gave up and what-do-you-know, they got pregnant.” {insert eyebrow raise and pitiful look} And, let’s not forget the ubiquitous one about if you adopt, that will be a guaranteed path to pregnancy. No, no and no!  First of all, it’s just false. Secondly, you can’t compare my situation to someone else’s.

You need to stop thinking of all of this. What should I stop thinking of? That I may never be a mother? That because my body won’t work properly, I will deny my husband the opportunity to be a father? That I can’t afford the ridiculous cost of treatment because my insurance doesn’t cover it? About the baby I miscarried? Oh, and surely those pregnancy announcements every 1.3 seconds on Facebook will help me forget about my problems.

Take a vacation. Hmmm…when you’re paying around $12,000 for ONE round of IVF or $40,000 for an adoption, it’s kind of hard to take a vacation. However, I’m lucky, and taking trips was my saving grace to recharge and have something to look forward to in the midst of such heartache. We took many vacations during the seven plus years that we were trying. Really got away from it all. We went around the world. Sailed in the Mediterranean. Slept in the rainforest. Hiked a volcano. I didn’t think about infertility at all. Nope, that didn’t work. But, man, if it did, how awesome would that be?

You should meditate. Om. Om. Nope, no baby.

Mind over matter. Umm…Remember that disease part? Uh-uh. There’s that. I can’t will myself to be pregnant like all of the oh-so-fertile women that seem to surround me like I’m in some twisted pregnancy version of a “funhouse” of mirrors.

You need to think positive. It used to be easier to be more positive. Along with that positivity, I was also naive and blissfully ignorant. I’m a realist and that real part tells me to seek real medical help.

You need to stop being so stressed.  Go ahead and try to not be stressed about a VERY stressful situation. Trying to not be stressed will only further stress you out. It is what it is.


Would you tell someone with a gaping wound to just relax? Maybe relaxing would stop the bleeding. Would you tell someone having a heart attack to just relax? Surely, you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to just relax?

When people like me, have problems like these…

anovulation, clotting mutation, reproductive immunology problems, tubal blockage, low sperm morphology, endometriosis, etc.

…relaxing won’t help us. Not trying won’t help us. We need medical intervention, just like people with other diseases do.

We’ve put our lives on hold. We’ve been poked and prodded. Our relationships have suffered. We’ve had to deal with loss. We’re emotionally spent. We deal with failure on an almost permanent basis. We’re tired, frustrated and beaten down.

Relax is not something we want to hear and it’s not the answer to our problems.

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  • Great informative and truthful post 🙂

  • Nic

    Oh how true all of this is. If only relaxing would solve! You have written this in a great way for everyone to understand!

  • Great post! This is all so very true!!!

  • Hi Whitney, this is brilliant, thank you! I also wrote about it on my blog.

  • Wow! That was really informative and well written. You make the case against “just relax” so clearly!

  • Dad

    I have taken “relax” out of my vocabulary. I have not taken the time to read about this until now. You are a great teacher! I am sorry if I have said some of those things. Mom and I love you.

  • Cakie Pie

    Thanks for articulating that – I am going through a similar infertility journey and feel all of those emotions when I hear ‘just relax’ and all of those amazing stories of all those relaxed women who just pop out a baby when they relax. It was good to read some logic and some strategies to use when I feel so much rage at my lovely pregnant friends telling me to relax!

  • Emily

    Oh my God, thank you.

    “You need to think positive. [It used to be easier to be more positive. Along with that positivity, I was also naive and blissfully ignorant. It’s not that I’m not positive, but I’m a realist. I always hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst.]”

    If I continued to blissfully bounce into pregnancy as I did the first two times, I would surely lose my mind.

    • Whitney Anderson

      Emily, thanks. It was really helpful for me to sit down and write all of this out and think about it thoughtfully. Good luck to you!

  • Jessica

    After my 2nd miscarriage a coworker said that I should just “go on vacation” and I would get pregnant. I asked her if I should bring my RE on vacation with me….. because that was the only way it was going to happen. It just bothers me to no end that people are so insensitive! I’m sure sometimes they mean well, but its just frustrating. Thank you for writing posts like these so that *maybe* people will get it.

    • Whitney Anderson

      That’s funny and true! Bringing your RE on vacation. ha! and dont’ forget your injections! 🙂 Best wishes to you.

  • modern wife

    Thank you so much Whitney for bringing your story to the world. I feel alone in this struggle and that no one understands. I too have heard all the same “advice”, and if all that worked, I too would be expecting a baby right now. I have been on two vacations while ovulating in the last 6 months and nothing happened.
    Worse than the bad advice, though, are the thoughtless comments from friends and family of “Well, I don’t know what could be wrong (ie.-you’re doing wrong). I got pregnant right away.” Or, “We were using birth control and still couldn’t keep from getting pregnant.” All of that implies that I’m not Fertile Myrtle, like it seems the rest of the world is.

    • Whitney Anderson

      Thank you! It’s so hard and uneducated advice certainly doesn’t help. Have you checked to see if there is a support group in your area by any chance?

  • This is SO spot on, thank you! So many well-intentioned friends and family have said this to me and I sometimes felt guilty being upset with them, since I know they’re just trying to be helpful. But you articulated perfectly why this response is so upsetting.