What can I say to people who tell me I’ll get pregnant if I “just relax?”

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We received a comment from dzymzlzy on a recent post — how do you respond to people who tell you that you’ll get pregnant if you just chill out?

My husband and I tried to conceive for a while before I started to suspect I had endometriosis. This was later confirmed, and I am now two-and-a-half weeks post-excision for my endo and am finally feeling hopeful about actually getting pregnant.

People love to tell me that if I “just relax” about conceiving, I’ll get pregnant right away. How should I respond?

Comments on What can I say to people who tell me I’ll get pregnant if I “just relax?”

  1. When I was dealing with infertility, my response to questions like that was to heave a sigh and say pointedly, “I wish it were that simple for us.” It let people know we were dealing with challenges, without foisting my medical history on them.

    • You can also add: “emotional distress caused by fertility problems or other life events co-occurring with treatment will not compromise the chance of becoming pregnant” based on this 2011 research article.

  2. “I really appreciate your support, but it’s really frustrating for me. Can you imagine trying your best to achieve something that you really want and well-meaning people around you are giving you all kinds of advice on what you SHOULD be doing?”

    “Thanks for your advice.”

    “I wasn’t asking for advice, just expressing my frustration. If I need some advice, though, I’ll be sure to come to you!”

    I like Ariel’s sigh and “I wish it were that simple.” Lets them know that they should probably back off without being aggressive about it.

  3. I just hate this statement. It is sooooo insensitive. It only comes from people who got pregnant easily, too.

    A doctor once told me that one has to be extremely overwhelming stressed to affect ovulation month and month in such a way that ovulation might not happen. Normal run of the mill anxiety and worry won’t do it — the ovulation day might move around a bit, but it won’t be that extreme.

    Also, getting pregnant DOES require action and it requires action and specific times. “Relaxing” in the tub with candles and a glass of wine and a magazine won’t do the trick — unless you are well fertile, your partner is well fertile, and it is one of the magic three days, I guess!

    • Well said. I’ve a history of not getting my period or having it be long off from stress, but I would never assume that the same was true of other women. It is definitely a much more complicated area. Though relaxing in a nice bath is a good idea regardless 🙂

    • I have always had uneven cycles and my body is really impacted by stress. Right now, my husband and I are technically trying, but right after I had my IUD removed, my Father in Law’s cancer became worse, and three days ago, he passed away. I really think that the reason I haven’t been able to get pregnant is because I have been so stressed out with this and some other emergencies, especially given that my husband and I did have a statistically improbable pregnancy occur early in our relationship. This isn’t the case for everyone, and I would never tell someone to just relax, but you also can’t control major life events and stressors. Sometimes, in situations like mine, you just have to be patient and ride whatever wave life is throwing at you.

  4. i’d gently reply that it is not the issue without giving details. it doest help that an exeriment was conducted recently in which women undergoing ivf were made to laugh and relax. this increased the sucess rate. it reinforces the idea that relaxing somehow will treat infertility even if thats not the problem.

  5. As someone trying to get pregnant and dealing with male infertility issues, I know exactly how this person feels. Mostly you want to sucker punch those people in the gut and tell them to kiss your ass. No one knows how hard infertility is until it happens to them, and people ALWAYS think they know the right method of getting pregnant, or saying “It can take over a year to get pregnant”… great. The fact of the matter is, you want to get pregnant above all else, and calming down when you’re pumped full of hormones (or just dealing with the sadness of getting yet another period) is really FRICKIN’ hard. I prefer to either a) not tell people we’re trying, or when they ask say “we’re working on it” without sounding exasperated, or b), explain that there are medical issues that you are dealing with that are preventing you from achieving pregnancy. My husband isn’t exactly a fan of promoting his low-sperm count to the masses, so that keeps it a little more private while discussing an incredibly personal and emotional issue. Option c) sucker punch or yelling, but that just might encourage them to remind you to calm down. Assholes.

  6. Tell them to “fuck off”. Oh what? That’s not the mature answer? Well, that’s certainly what I wanted to tell people every time they suggested it in the 15 months it took me to get pregnant. I don’t have any better suggestions for you but I sure hope things work out for you soon. xo

    • Those were my thoughts exactly! Either “Fuck off” or “Really?! Oh my gosh, I’d better go home and call my medical team to fire them all!” Unfortunately I don’t think that would save any personal relationships, but it’s a great fantasy!

  7. As far as a response, I suggest the heavy sigh above. It’s a great way to let people know that it’s *not* that easy. I wish there were a tactful way to express the frustration experienced as a result of the implied blame in the “just relax” statement. “Just relax, you’ll get pregnant,” implies that you’re doing something wrong, and that you have control over whether or not you’re pregnant, not to mention dismissive of your feelings and frustrations involved.

  8. My husband and I have been trying for 8 months since his vasectomy reversal surgery – it’s slow-going this conception business for us over 35 year-olds.

    Everyone seems to have some unsolicited advice on what the trick to a quick conception is, including the flippant, “just relax”. I have recently begun stating that while we appreciate the concern and support, we prefer no advice on what we should or should not do. Most folks understand that it’s private once you set a compassionate boundary.

    • Jo
      I can totally relate to you-my hubby had his vasectomy reversal done Dec 2009 and after we got married in June 2010 people assumed because it was granted a success initially we would get pregnant though “it takes time-relax and dont try to hard” were common responses-i kick myself that i didnt listen to my gut feeling of getting Ian retested sooner,and maybe frozen some, as when we decided to go to our gps in Jan this year we’d left it too long and scarring has occurred-and now theres nothing getting through. We’re about to start ivf. But again few people can understand truly unless they’ve been through it. But Jo-if in doubt go back and get it retested,dont leave it like we did.Best of luck for us all :)x

  9. All the advice given here is really excellent. I like Ariel’s short and sweet but very pointed response a lot. I used something pretty similar during our 3 years of trying when I didn’t want to get into it, but wanted to be clear that it was not that easy. When there was space to go into something a bit deeper, I would tell people that it’s really hard to “just relax” when you know that something that is very important to you may be out of your reach. In this day and age of “dream it and it will come true” mantras, it can be hard to get people to understand that “letting go” isn’t necessarily the answer, but I found a lot of people would respond by taking the time to digest what letting go of a dream would mean for them and quitting with the “just relax” attitude.

    For us it was also male factor issues, and yet I don’t think anyone ever told my partner to “just relax” that advice always came to me. Since my state of physical/mental affairs had little to do with it, I found that extra frustrating. One of my closest friends was going through fertility troubles as well, though hers was due to her wife’s endometriosis. They often got the “just relax” advice as well, which is even more frustrating when accidental pregnancy isn’t an option for a same sex couple. If it helps, and I know sometimes it doesn’t, they did just have a positively rockin’ little dude earlier this year after successful treatment for her endo. He is truly the bomb.

  10. Oh lord, thank you for this. I’m looking forward to reading the responses. I have been getting this from everyone.

    I started my journey to conceive by charting immediately, because that’s just the type of person I am. I don’t wait until there’s a “problem” to do my homework. Everyone has equated that with “stressing out” about conception.

    Just because I’m excited about our decision to have a baby and just because I’m already educating myself by reading books on pregnancy, birth and parenting, does not mean that I’m stressing out. Educating myself isn’t stressful; it gives me peace of mind.

      • Yes, I have and I love it! If I have a daughter, she’ll be reading it the day she gets her period for the first time. I really believe that the information in it is so valuable that it’s CRIMINAL that parents/communities/doctors don’t explain more of this information to women. It’s the reason why I didn’t wait to start charting. Thanks! 🙂

    • You know, I started with the same logic you did – charting before starting to try to conceive. We were extremely lucky not to have issues, but that was why we didn’t tell ANYONE we were trying. Not sure what we would have done if we had had fertility issues, but the fact that I didn’t even want to tell people I had started charting because I was worried that people would tell me I was overreacting.

    • I love that you said that. My husband and I have only been trying for 4 months to get pregnant but I was so excited that I started charting right away. I want to know what my body is doing. Sure I would love to have gotten pregnant immediately but I am by no means stressing out over it. Its only been 4 months. But any time I talk about it people respond with the “I think you probably just need to relax and it will happen…” Really? Because it funny that I am not already pregnant because I wasn’t feeling stressed at all about it. I always want to respond with ” Funny, I wasn’t feeling stressed. Until now.. now YOU’RE stressing me out. you should leave.. QUICK. Wouldn’t want to mess things up for me by standing here aggravating me.” lol. If only it were that easy.

  11. I agree with Ariel, completely, especially if the insensitive speaker is not someone close to you.
    This reminds me of a dilemma I currently facing, where I badly want to avoid committing a similar insensitivity. I am having a baby myself in two months, and though we got pregnant easily, we put off trying for a LONG time due to financial difficulties, etc. Consequently, I completely understand how hard it is to watch friends have the baby you are so badly yearning for yourself. I remember having feelings of resentment towards those other lucky mothers that made me feel even worse about myself and my situation. So finally to my question… I know that two friends are having a hard time conceiving after trying for over a year, and I really don’t want to hurt them in any way. Is it kinder not to invite them to the baby shower, etc, so as not to “rub it it”? Also, what can I say to this wonderful couple to express how sorry I am for their troubles without coming off like an insensitive jerk?

    • I would invite them. If it were me, I’d feel left out and snubbed; as if my childlessness was causing me to be left out. While we were waiting for things to fall together, I loved spending time with all my friends and acquaintances who had babies so I could play with them. It helped ease the ache for me. They may be different, but I say invite/include.

    • Thank you for asking this! I am in a similar situation, I’m pregnant, didn’t have any issues getting this way. I have 2 older friends who are both trying. 1 has been trying for almost 2 years, and the other has just begun but suspects she might have a hard time. I am constantly checking myself so as not to say anything insensitive to them. I almost feel guilty sometimes, I just don’t want to hurt them or bring up painful feelings. With all that said, I would still invite them to a baby shower because it might hurt worse if they felt left out, or felt like I was trying to hold back from them or something.

    • As someone on the opposite side of this (my best friend is pregnant, we’re still trying) by all means invite them. A friend should be HAPPY for you and if their fertility struggle is becoming too emotional, then it’s up to them to graciously decline. I’m all-a-squee for my best friend, can’t wait to meet her son and be a part of his life. I hope your friends feel the same for you. 🙂

    • My suggestion is to include a note with the invitation (or say it to them, if the invite is in person/on the phone) saying something like “I feel like it might be tough for you to attend a baby shower when I know you really want to be pregnant. I wanted to let you know that I’d love for you to come to the shower, but I understand if it’s too hard right now.” I think that walks a fine line between sensitivity to their feelings and respecting their autonomy as adult women with brains and hearts as well as (currently empty) uteruses. 🙂

    • Please do invite them – I can totally see where you’re coming from, and that you don’t want them to feel like you’re having a baby parade up and down thier street, but if you don’t invite them it will feel to them like you’ve hung a massive sign over them as outsiders. You might also give them the wrong impressions, that now that you’re baby people you can’t invite them as non baby people, or that thier current lack of baby is shameful or unbearably sad to you, or that you don’t trust them around your children not to steal them (yes, some people do think that way!).One of the saddest parts of infertility is when you get left out of all of the baby stuff, or theres an awkward silence after a friend reveals the happy news and you’re in the room. I agree with Jordan – give them the option, let them decide if they want to come.

    • Thanks, everyone for your advice. I’m glad to have the support and suggestions. And best of luck to everyone who is trying… I know it is so hard to wait/wonder/wish for it to happen.

  12. What surprises me is that I get this comment all the time–and I’m married to a woman! Clearly if we just ‘relax’ nothing is going to happen in the baby department, and yet people keep telling us that that’s what we need to do. My mother in law was the best when she told us to ‘leave it in God’s hands.’ I appreciate the sentiment, but seriously? We’re going to need to get in there and help things along a little. So far staring at them like they’re insane isn’t working, so I might start using Ariel’s sign response for a change…

    • You could tell your mother in law that you don’t really want to raise the next messiah. Although that’s probably not helpful. I’m really sorry you’re dealing with that, but I admit I snickered at that one. I study religion so I have it on the brain.

  13. I like the “we’re working on it” but I’d add after that “now lets talk about YOUR sex life!” if you’re feeling a bit snarky that day.
    I always enjoyed that when people would ask us if we were trying to get pregnant, etc. I don’t think they make the connection that they’re asking a really personal question about your sex life. When people ask if my sister and I planned to have babies at the same time I always responded with “yes, every time I think about having sex with my husband, I call her to make sure she’s thinking about sex with her husband. That way we will hopefully line up!”

  14. It seems to be that the general public knows little to nothing about actually conceiving a baby. They just have unprotected sex and it happens. For some of us it is much harder than that and unfortunately a lot of people don’t consider what you might be going through before opening their mouths. My husband and I tried for almost a year and people kept telling me the samething! The month before we conceived I found out I have PCOS and was going to my Dr to be put on Clomid when I found out I was pregnant (I’m now 19 weeks!). I would ignore the comments and not let them affect you. Do your own research on infertility and work with your doctor!! Not everyone’s going to understand what you’re going through but please know you’re not alone….more woman than you would think deal with these issues and eventually end up with healthy pregnancies and little babies!! Good luck!

  15. “Actually, you need to just have one sperm fertilize one egg…but that’s not always easy.” I’ve never dealt with this, and it sounds like it’s past this point, but we’ve already decided that when the time comes we will not tell anyone that we are trying. Granted, we’ve also agreed that if we can’t get pregnant without intervention that we will adopt (or maybe adopt anyway!), but either way we are not seeking medical intervention. I think our thoughts would be different if we felt like IVF or any other procedures were an option for us that we were comfortable with. You can’t exactly hide something that takes up that much of your time and effects your health like that.

    • I once had similar thoughts- if it doesn’t work out, we’ll adopt. Then I found out how much adoption costs. And how emotionally complicated it, too, can be. Then I found out my insurance covers infertility treatments (I know this isn’t the norm, I am grateful) Then I found out how absolutely positively wonderfully exciting it is to carry another living being inside you. And how devastating it is to miscarry it. All I want right now is to relive that joy I felt in getting pregnant. I never in a million years would’ve expected I’d feel this way, but I may consider other avenues I’d once written off.

      • Thanks for posting that, my husband and I are trying, and have been for a few months. While I want a biological child, I’m worried about being pregnant and having to give up control of my body. So it’s nice to read that others love it (other then my hippie mother)

  16. I’m not a mom, and I likely will never be one, but I love reading offbeat mama posts! I had one of my ovaries removed in an emergency surgery, and 6 months later I am still not ovulating due to some serious damage and scar tissue left on my remaining ovary and tube. I’m actually completely cool with this. Maybe I won’t always be, but I really resent people jumping down my throat that, “I have one left, it’ll work out.” Or that I should be in serious distress over my lack-of-birthing capabilities. Well if I wasn’t doubting my female-ness before, I’m certainly wondering now.

    Some people just really don’t think before they speak.

  17. I watched the sex and the city movie when it first came out – about halfway through the film one of the main characters gets pregnant after years of trying (and adopting). She sighs and trots out the old cliche “my doctor said sometimes when you just relax……”

    After the film I pointed out to some friends how ridiculous that was, but the answer I got back was ‘well…it is that way isn’t it?’ I think that most people outside of the infertilosphere genuinely think that’s true, and want to pass on thier secret tip. I don’t think they realise that they’re effectively saying ‘it’s all your fault you can’t get pregnant you stressed out person’. I’d just respond, with ‘that’s an old wives tale’

    • I can’t respond for “most” people, but a lot of us outside the infertility sphere have the common sense, manners, and just general scientific knowledge to know that reproduction is about a LOT more than just relaxing, and that every person’s situation is different. I’m not trying to accuse you of judging, I’m just saying that I’m sorry you’ve come across a lot of people who seem to not quite understand that things don’t always just snap to it and work out via your own will. That sucks!

    • The thing is, sometimes it DOES work that way. Of course, it probably has a lot more to do with luck than relaxing, but it happens often enough that people will trot out the anecdotal evidence – with out bothering to think that for ever person who just had to give up, there are tons who had to have IVF or never managed to conceive at all.

      Yes, there are women who manage to get pregnant after giving up on trying (and believing it will ever happen). There are also women who NEVER manage to get pregnant whether they give up or not. But no one says “So hey, you know how we stopped trying to get pregnant 4 years ago? Well guess what? We’re still not pregnant!”

  18. Make a bingo card like the one posted on offbeat mama for those who are childless by choice for all the stupid comments you get from people and keep it in your purse, when someone makes a comment, pointedly remove it from your purse and check a new one off, of put a little tally mark in the box. It would be rude, but satisfying. I made such a bingo list for the stupid things people say after you graduate and you are stuck with a) no job or b) a really shitty job. I sent it to all my friends and they use it regulary 🙂

    My sister is not “trying” but not-not trying (how she and I talk about it) to have children with her husband and my mother is all kinds of insensitive about it, which makes me scared because my partner and I are going to jump on the “unsafe sex train” realll soon and we don’t want interference…

  19. It’s hard to have an understanding for those who don’t seem to be understanding you. You should know though, that those people probably mean, “I’m so sorry that it hasn’t been easy for you.” A lot of people don’t know how to communicate and offer advice, suggestions, or downplay it with happy thoughts without realizing they’re offending you. I think it’s safe to say these folks with the wrong words just want you to be happy and they’re trying to leave you with positive thoughts.

  20. We avoided those kind of comments entirely by not telling anyone, not even family, that we were trying. My in-laws were dying for a grandchild and if they’d known we were trying, the questions would have been non-stop — even still, we always got asked “when are you going to have a baby” to which we always just said “sooner rather than later.”

    It took us 9 months to conceive and though it felt like forever at the time, I also recognize that we were really lucky. Best of luck to you!

    • This was also the approach we took, and it worked great! No unwanted comments or questions. However I can see how at some point you would need someone other than your partner to talk to about your frustration.

  21. man……. i appreciate you acknowledging this annoying comment. i also had medical reasons for not getting pregnant…FIBROIDS IN UTERUS. After surgery and some fertility help- i have a beautiful 18month old son. YOU WILL GET PREGNANT!!!

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