Probably the most incorrect thing to say to anyone trying to conceive: just relax, it'll happen.
This is an incredibly stressful time, especially if you've been trying for a while. Unfortunately, with chronic stress comes a domino-effect on your hormones and this can impact your ability to become pregnant. Which, of course, is a stressful thing to hear. Which, of course, doesn't, help. So how do we interrupt this cycle?
Understanding what's going on in your body is always step one. What actually happens to your hormones when you take deep breaths? How does that impact your ability to become pregnant? Well, like most stress-worsened problems, it all comes back to that jerky cortisol.
Cortisol is your stress hormone. It increases during your fight-or-flight mode, which is likely going all the time. It's made in your adrenal glands which sit right on top of your kidneys. These glands not only produce cortisol, but also your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The problem is that these aren't all made separately: cortisol is actually made from progesterone. Progesterone is what sustains a pregnancy and keeps that little egg going! So, if you're stressed out and your body thinks it's in danger, cortisol takes the front seat in terms of hormone production and progesterone levels can suffer.
This is when chronic stress really starts to alter the periods. Your cycle may lengthen or take a while to really get going (i.e. spotting) which is a good sign that your progesterone might be a bit low.
But wait! Unfortunately, there's more. When cortisol is too high, it can inhibit your thyroid hormone production which usually makes people feel quite crappy since your metabolism and internal thermostat drop down. When thyroid hormones are too low, this can interfere with ovulation. A great way to see if your hormones are affected by your thyroid is to do basal body temperature tracking. First thing in the morning, roll over and take your temperature. Write a big neon post-it note on your nightstand to remind you. Get a thermometer with a last-temperature memory so that you can still roll over and doze off without having to write down the number or remember. Monitor this across the entire cycle and chart it. There's tons of apps that help you with this, and makes it quite clear to see how your thermostat's doing. If all is well, you should see a prolonged spike in temperature over 2-3 days, or, ideally, over the rest of the cycle. That's the happy spike of ovulation!
So, just in case you've gotten a bit stressed out, take 5 deep breaths. Right now. Separate your shoulders from your earlobes. And just like that, you've dropped your cortisol levels down, given your body time to make some progesterone, and helped your thyroid to function and get you ovulating! There's a wonderful TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on how your body language can drop your cortisol levels...channelling your inner Wonder Woman will also help you do all of those things! As will long walks. And massages. And acupuncture (unless you're terrified of needles, of course). And guided meditations. And epsom salt baths. And yoga. And laughing.
The best part is that all of these tools are already in your medicine cabinet, be sure to make time for them.
Walter KN, et al. Elevated thyroid stimulating hormone is associated with elevated cortisol in healthy young men and women. Thyroid Res. 2012;5:13.
Maruo T, et al. A role for thyroid hormone in the induction of ovulation and corpus luteum function. Horm Res. 1992;37 Suppl 1:12-8.