Welcome to my stress and infertility post.
I always find it strange that, whilst stress is becoming more acknowledged as a cause of many ailments, stress and infertility have not yet become a mainstream link. What I mean by that is that there are many families that are currently spending lots of money in search of an infertility ‘cure’ – and even putting themselves through stressful medical treatment, when there really is no need. For many, stress is actually the missing piece of the puzzle.
There is little doubt that the reproductive system takes a real hit when stress levels rise. And in today’s world depression, anxiety, and enormous stress are a fact of life. This has resulted in several reports hi-lighting that stess is causing infertility in women.
However, you’ll notice that I said “families” in the first paragraph. This is because stress and infertility affects both wannabe moms AND dads. For women, stress can effect egg production; whilst for men the effects on sperm are, as yet, unknown. However, stress is already known to affect a man’s ability to ejaculate.
Unfortunately, stress can increase over time and very often the person suffering from stress has no idea whatsoever that they are experiencing it. And if you cannot deal with your external stress, then the constant struggle to get pregnant will only increase your stress; and so it perpetuates the never ending cycle. This is a cycle that you need to break if you ever want to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Stress and Infertility : Research and Evidence
Cortisol is a hormone produced in the body when the body is in a stressful state. Whilst the presence of this hormone helps with : numbing pain, sharpening the memory, it also makes you alert and therefore ready for ‘action’.
The downside is when stress is on-going. That is, there is no ‘let up’ and your body is constantly being subjected to stressful situations. That is not a healthy place to be because cortisol levels will continue to rise and there is no ‘rest period’ in which the levels get a chance to diminish.
And let’s be clear here, I’m not just referring to physical stress here, but also mental stress – which can build up for months. Eventually if the levels of cortisol do continue to rise, then the workings of the hypothalamus get affected and this is the part of the brain responsible for producing sex hormones.
Research, on rats, at the University of California Berkley confirmed that there was evidence that cortisol can actually effect gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). Put simply :
Low levels of GnRH = Lower sperm count in men and irregular ovulation in women
For those undergoing IVF treatments, you need to be aware that stress is likely to affect the success rates of this as well.
A study in Fertility & Sterility found that women with higher levels of stress were only 80% effective at producing eggs at ovulation.
What’s the answer to stress and infertility then ?
It would be easy to write pages and pages detailing why stress is generally a bad thing when it comes to trying to conceive. However, let’s focus on what can be done to relieve such stress.
- Acknowledge that you might be in a stressful situation.
- Identify what type of stress it is (a) Physical, or (b) Mental
- Physical – Go for a massage, get more sleep, take a hot bath
- Mental – Take some meditation, go for a mini-break, talk to your boss about your situation, can you delegate some of your work, take up yoga.
- Invest in a stress management program.
Just picking up on that last point, in one study, nearly 60% of women that had been struggling with stress and infertility fell pregnant within half a year subsequent to under-going a 2 month mind-body stress free program.
If you would like to try something simple at home to relieve your stress and infertility, then I highly recommend the Restoring Fertility by Drs. Brandon Horn, PhD, LAc (FABORM) and Wendy Yu PhD(c), LAc (FABORM) yoga program. You can read more about the benefits of yoga on infertility and a short review of this product here : YOGA FOR FERTILITY
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