Stress and Fertility

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

In today’s modern, educated, liberated and fast-paced society, the most “in” thing is “Stress!” And if you aren’t stressed, it must mean that there is something wrong with you! Sounds funny, but true!

Realistically, we all should know that stress is not a good thing for our bodies in general, it can have a significant impact on your fertility.

For some women, chronic stress can affect ovulation by altering signals to the hypothalamus, the center of the brain that regulates some of the hormones that control ovulation. Recent research tells us that stress boosts levels of some hormones, such as adrenaline, catecholamines and cortisol, which can inhibit the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone). This is responsible for the release of sex hormones. Subsequently, this may suppress ovulation in women, reduce sperm count in men and lower libido in both women and men as well as a decrease in general fertility. It also causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which also causes infertility to occur. This has become such a common issue that we have a name for it, "Stress Induced Reproductive Dysfunction”.(Again, looks fancy and "in")

So, if you have been trying to conceive with no results, some facts are very important to consider: pregnancy is much more likely to occur during months when couples reported feeling "happy and relaxed". It was less likely to occur during the months they reported feeling tense or anxious.

Even you are pregnant, trying to carry a pregnancy to term during stressful times places the fetus at risk. The body knows this, which is why it creates an environment that is basically inhospitable to conception.

Generally, a stressed person is an unhealthy person. People living with a high-stress level are typically overly tired and filled with nervous tension which may cause them to choose poor dietary and lifestyle habits. So basically, the "in" factor should be “out!”

Reducing Stress for Fertility

If you have had fertility tests performed and have found that there is no medical reason for your infertility, it is time to evaluate your life and determine how much stress you have. Of course, you may not even have the need for an evaluation. You may know you are stressed. In that case, it is time to start defeating that stress to help your fertility.

Stress relief should be a part of every couple’s conception plan, even if they are going through IVF.

How to Reduce the Effect of Stress on Your Fertility (I know its easier said than done, but no harm in trying :)

  • Reduce the stress in your life. This is so important on many different levels. It will not only help your fertility and health but also your quality of life. If your job is really stressful, (the most common reason these days) maybe begin to look for a different job or occupation. If that is not possible, some of the tips below might help you to deal with your stress differently than how you currently are.
  • Change how you react to stressful situations. When faced with an ongoing stressful situation there is only one thing you have control over - how you react. Pay attention to that. Getting control of how you react will have a big impact on what happens inside of your body when a stressful situation presents itself. This takes some attention and practice. Try and relax.Feeling stress about it is not going to change anything. We cant have everything in life.So look at the positives; surrender and let go the negatives.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep
  • Get an adequate amount of exercise daily
  • Meditate
  • Start practicing Yoga
  • Consume natural, calming herbs and supplements
  • Acupuncture
  • Remember, how to be good to yourself and love yourself.

Few more small, easy tips:

  • Try journaling. Setting down on paper how you feel can take some of the pressure off. It’s a way to off-load concerns you feel uncomfortable sharing. And you can shred the pages or throw them out, a physical act that contributes to the effect.
  • Couples should act as if they were dating again. Set aside time during the week to go to a movie. Take a dance class together. And put a time limit of 20 minutes or so on pregnancy discussions. Fertility talk that goes on and on can make matters worse!
  • Get individual counseling or group support. A woman struggling to get pregnant needs someone who can empathize. Counseling can be an outlet for feelings of confusion, sadness, and frustration. Group support is particularly helpful for women who feel isolated as a result of infertility.

Rethink your attitude. Thinking "everybody else gets pregnant so easily" only causes distress. Change it to "If getting pregnant was so easy, there wouldn't be fertility clinics." Recognize pessimistic thinking.

Don't just try to relax because you think that it's going to help you get pregnant. But do relax just because it feels good, because it's comfortable, and because when you do feel good, you're healthier overall, and that can never be a bad thing for conception."

So, take a deep breath, relax and be happy; think positively, surround yourself with positive and happy people, spread happiness and then start the beautiful journey of motherhood and life :)

By Dr. Varsha Anand

Specialist OB/GYN