This is Infertility is a bi-weekly podcast where we fuse narrative storytelling with experience and science to give you a new perspective on what it’s really like to go through a family building journey. Each episode dives into the emotional, physical, and financial burdens carried by those who experience infertility on their path to parenthood. Be it IVF, IUI, egg freezing, surrogacy, adoption, etc., the path is never the same and it can be long, painful, and lonely. It’s our mission to give those struggling a platform to be heard, a community connection, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the 1 in 8 who, for many reasons, struggle with infertility.

Episode 104: Fertility 101: Stress and Fertility

The Fertility 101 Series, because there’s no shortage of daunting terms to keep your mind running, is a quick and dirty breakdown on a specific topic with insights from a fertility expert. 

Today’s topic focuses on the link between stress and fertility. People often assume that stress is the cause of infertility, but stress frequently follows fertility treatments, as our expert will tell you. But stress is natural – there is no research to suggest that it is a direct cause of infertility. In this episode, you will learn how to make small changes in your lifestyle to relieve unhelpful stress, support yourself and support others during this taxing journey.  

There’s no better person to join us for this episode than Dr. Georgia Witkin. Dr. Witkin is a clinical psychologist, educator, and director, with roles at Progyny, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and RMA of New York. She has her own column dedicated to mental health and fertility in Psychology Today.  

Feeling stressed out? Give this episode a listen.  

Expert: Dr. Georgia Witkin, Member Services Development at Progyny, OB-GYN and Reproductive Sciences, Mount Sinai 

Host: Dan Bulger 

For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast pageand Progyny’s Education page for more resources.  

Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcastand use the #ThisisInfertility.     

Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at thisisinfertility@progyny.com. 

Here are some highlights from this episode: 

Understanding Stress
1:00-2:05 

Dr. Georgia Witkin: If you understand that our brain and body can only be in one state at a time, you’ve got the key to managing stress. You can’t be both stressed and relaxed at the same time, not psychologically, not emotionally, not behaviorally. So, most of the advice I’m going to give you that has to do with dealing with stress, will require you being aware of when you’re stressed. And you will begin to counterprogram yourself. Let me give you a few examples. If you find that you are speaking quickly and hyperventilating, then try to slow down your breathing. You can’t voluntarily slow down your heart rate, the adrenaline rate or any of the release of the hormones, but you can control your breathing. If you slow your breathing, the rest of your body is going to say ‘well, everything must be fine here because I’m breathing, I’m very relaxed.’ So, you can do that by making sure that you’re not using your chest to get rid of all your carbon dioxide, which is called hyperventilating. And just breathe, gently belly in, belly out, like you’re sleeping. Pause, belly in, belly out, pause. If you do meditation, if you do any kind of yoga, if you sing, if you hum, if you listen to music slower than your heartbeat, and breathe along with that, if you lay down and say I’m going to relax my feet, I’m going to relax my calf, I’m going to relax my thighs, I’m going to relax my stomach. And then when you get to your whole diaphragm midsection, you say I’m going to relax that section too. All of those are just ways you’re telling your body to behave as if you’re not under stress and the message goes right to your brain.  

Don’t Always Put Yourself Last 
11:55 – 13:12 

Dr. Georgia Witkin: Most women and many men, but most women, spend their day taking care of not only business, but taking care of their loved ones. I know when I see patients in the hospital, that although sons care about their mothers, it’s their daughter sitting there with them. I know friends keep each other company when they go to the doctor to see me. I know that typically when something goes wrong in school, even though both parents are listed, unless the father is working from home, it’s usually the mother who’s called. So, most women are very busy taking care of everybody and everything else and saying the leftover time will be for me. And the leftover time is typically two in the morning and you need your sleep. So, I am saying add yourself to your list of loved ones. You don’t have to become before anybody else, but please take care of yourself as lovingly and as well as you’re taking care of everybody else. All you need is 20 minutes a day to pause and do something you enjoy. And that will save you 50% of stress symptoms. 

Host

Dan Bulger, Producer at Progyny

Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the last six years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he as interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.

Guests

Dr. Georgia Witkin, Head of Member Services Development at Progyny, Assistant Professor of OB-GYN and Reproductive Sciences and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai 

Georgia is the author of 12 acclaimed books, including The Female Stress Survival Guide, The Male Stress Survival Guide, and Stress Relief for Disasters Great and Small, and is a prolific writer of research articles about women, stress, and reproductive medicine. She has been honored by the AIA, AFA, Resolve, and City of Hope. She has also served as a health reporter/host for CNBC, WNBC, and the Fox News Channel, and has been featured as a guest expert on 20/20, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.