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Is Stress Hurting Your Fertility?

How stress can keep you from getting pregnant, and what to do about it.

Is Stress Hurting Your Fertility?

That old adage about not stressing when you're trying to get pregnant? There actually may be something to it.

The female menstrual cycle is a dynamic process. The sex hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone dramatically impact a woman’s emotional state and her libido. At ovulation in particular, a woman’s dreams can be influenced by hormones, and her thoughts can become more sexual and her overall emotional state more heightened, which can then provide the perfect condition to get pregnant. But when stress gets in the way, fertility often takes a hit.

When a woman is stressed, her menstrual cycle can get out of whack. The hypothalamus, which is the center of the brain that regulates her endocrine system, can sense anxiety, and when it does, it can shut down and stop doing its job, which can then deregulate some of the hormones that trigger the ovaries to release an egg each month. The result? She may ovulate less frequently, which makes it more difficult to figure out her most fertile days. What’s more, research also indicates that stress can have an impact on other aspects of fertility -- from fertilization and implantation.

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But it doesn’t stop there. Infertility itself can cause more stress, which can then stop you from having sex -- a pretty obvious fertility derailment. Many people who have difficulty conceiving often feel that the stress of trying to conceive ends up being the very thing that stops them from even trying. They have a hard time addressing the pressure that comes with failed attempts and can end up clinically anxious and depressed, which can, in turn, impede on infertility even more.

So what can you do to reduce stress and up your chances to conceive? Here are 5 tips:

1. Sleep. Getting too little sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, which can then make it more difficult to conceive. What’s more, sleep gives your body a chance to regenerate, recover and relax from a taxing day. So make sure you get the slumber you need. If you are waking up tired or feel like you’re dragging all day long, chances are you’re not sleeping enough.

2. Practice yoga and meditation. Taking the time to meditate, visualize and even pray can mitigate stress, balance hormones and promote fertility. Some cultures also use mantras and create music to help relax the endocrine system. These techniques bypass the rational mind to work outside of one individual's experience. When that happens, the nervous system has a chance to relax, and the stress hormones start to decrease, giving room for positive feel-good neurotransmitters start to calm you down and regulate your body. If you are not big on “om,” yoga is a great alternative. Picking up a yoga practice twice a week can help reduce the stress hormones that mess up with your fertility. Hatha yoga, in particular, focuses on breathing and slow, relaxing movements without putting too much emphasis on meditation.

3. Don’t take others’ experiences and comments personally. Though spiritual beliefs and meditative tools can help protect your fertility, some words and belief systems can have a huge impact on our emotional stress -- especially when they resonate with our deepest fears. When a friend, a family member or coworker express something that are at odds with your current psyche or make you doubt your body, take a step back, put that opinion aside and try to put it in a context that is not your own. In other words, do not take it personally.

4. Eat the right foods. Proper nutrition, which includes adrenal-enhancing omega oils and adaptogenic plants and herbs, will help balance stress hormones in your body and promote fertility. B vitamins also protect the nervous system, increase energy and heighten mood. A healthy diet, along with self-care, really is the best defense against the negative effects of environmental stress on fertility.

5. Have sex… for fun! Try not to let your sex life dwindle because you are too worried about getting pregnant. It’s common for couples who experience fertility issues to feel like sex has become more of a science project. But “it” should be fun and feel good, so do it when you’re not ovulating, too. You’ll (re)build the intimacy you may have lost when actively trying to make babies, and practice makes perfect, right?

Prioritizing your own well being isn’t just beneficial for your emotional health and fertility. It helps you model a healthy philosophy for your children and instill the foundations of a balanced life. It is never too early to begin this process. And because stress only tends to increase with the responsibility of modern motherhood, the earlier you integrate stress-reducing practices into your life, the more prepared you will be for the challenges that you might face as a mom.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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