Stress & Its Impact on Your FertilityNov 27, 2023
Individuals having difficulty conceiving often compare their journey to riding a roller coaster, marked by soaring highs and plunging lows. So much goes on during fertility treatments and many individuals navigate the process without a clear understanding of their body's changes, the purpose of specific appointments, the reasons behind ordered tests, and potential treatment outcomes. This process, coupled with the emotional turbulence, often causes what I call "infertility whiplash”, which can be overwhelming and stressful.
While persevering through fertility treatments, couples may find that the dream of starting a family remains elusive despite their dedicated efforts. Despite various medical and lifestyle factors contributing to infertility, the impact of stress is frequently overlooked. This blog post aims to unravel the intricate relationship between stress and infertility, shedding light on how chronic stress can affect fertility and providing coping strategies.
Understanding Stress and Its Impact
Stress is a difficult lifestyle modification to study as it is fairly subjective. At some point every person who is struggling with infertility is told “if you just relax it will happen”. In reality, the research suggests that the majority of stress is not harmful to fertility. Stress is a natural response to life's challenges, however, when it becomes chronic and to the point that it is overwhelming it can have profound effects on the body.
In women, mild to moderate stress typically does not alter the menstrual cycle. However, chronic severe stress can trigger an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormonal shifts may disrupt the delicate balance of reproductive hormones, potentially affecting ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, women undergoing fertility treatment often experience anxiety, with over 30% meeting the criteria for major depression.
While women appear more susceptible to the impact of stress, studies suggest that severe chronic stress in male partners can be associated with impaired semen parameters. Observational studies have frequently linked stress to infertility. Despite the evident stress during the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, no clinical trial has definitively proven that reducing stress before infertility treatment enhances pregnancy rates. Nevertheless, stress remains a significant factor leading individuals to discontinue fertility treatments. Moreover, in times of stress, unhealthy coping mechanisms are often employed, negatively influencing both male and female fertility potential.
Managing Stress for Improved Fertility
It is impossible to live a stress-free life, but what is important is to develop healthy coping mechanisms to help manage stress effectively, especially while trying to conceive. Here are some strategies that may help:
Mind-Body Techniques: Practices like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being.
Professional Support: Consider speaking with a someone who specializes in fertility and stress management. They can provide valuable guidance and support during this challenging journey.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Maintain a balanced diet, get regular exercise, and ensure you're getting enough sleep. A healthy lifestyle can help your body better cope with stress and boost your overall fertility.
Support Groups: Joining a support group for individuals or couples experiencing infertility can provide a safe space to share your feelings and learn from others who are going through similar challenges.
Limiting Stressors: Identify and address stressors in your life, such as work-related issues, financial concerns, or relationship problems. Trying your best to reduce unnecessary sources of stress can be beneficial.
Time for Relaxation: Make time for activities you enjoy and that help you relax. This might include hobbies, spending time in nature, or simply taking a break from the fertility journey when needed.
While it's essential to acknowledge that stress alone may not be the sole cause of infertility, its impact on overall well-being and fertility should not be underestimated. By managing stress effectively and seeking support when needed, you may improve your chances of conceiving and make the journey towards parenthood a little less challenging. Remember, you're not alone in this journey!