If you’re struggling to become pregnant, have you ever wondered if stress could be the problem? In this blog we’ll look at the link between stress and infertility and what you can do to manage your stress levels to boost your fertility.
How stress could be affecting your fertility
If you’re trying to become pregnant, managing stress is important because too much stress in your life can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in your bloodstream can interfere with your hormonal balance – the output of sex hormones – and affect the functioning of your hypothalamus and your pituitary (the glands in your brain that regulate your appetite and emotions), as well as the hormones that tell your ovaries to release eggs.
Irregular or absent periods
If you have irregular or absent periods, are you going through stress or trauma? Studies show that extreme stress can interfere with and stop ovulation or play havoc with the hormonal balanced needed for healthy ovulation. Situations such as separation, divorce, illness, and stressful jobs can all raise the likelihood of miscarriage. In comparison couples who felt relaxed and happy early in pregnancy, were 60% less likely to miscarry. It’s not just extreme stress that causes problems, everyday tensions can all have an effect. Even the prospect of an upcoming exam or test could cause you to miss a period. This seems to be your body’s way of preventing a pregnancy at a time when it thinks you may find it hard to cope.
Stress also affects men
Stress also affects a man’s hormone balance, and some researchers suggest that stress causes infertility because it triggers the production of malformed eggs, sperm, or both. Pregnancies created by damaged sperm or eggs tend to result in early miscarriages, so you may not even have known that you were pregnant and think that you are having a heavy period.
Stress in men can also interfere with hormones controlling sperm production causing poor sperm quality. A depressing experience for a man such as a death in the family can temporarily reduce a man’s sperm count. Other research shows that stress or unhappiness can lower sperm count and cause remaining sperm to move poorly and even have cell abnormalities. Stress has also been shown to have an impact on the quality of sperm in men who are part of a couple undergoing IVF. This is because of the stress that many couples experience when undertaking IVF. Some studies show that if a woman becomes extremely anxious about getting pregnant, she may release eggs that are not mature enough to be fertilized. Finally higher than normal levels of stress hormone can lower libido in both men and women because they impact the hormones that are responsible for sex drive, oestrogen and testosterone and not having enough sex or enjoying satisfying sex, may be a cause of infertility for some couples.
Stress is a fact of life and you can’t avoid it, but you can find ways to manage it.
- Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. Your adrenal glands rely on vitamins C, B5, B6, zinc and magnesium and these are rapidly depleted when you are under stress. Ideally look for a supplement that is designed specifically for fertility.
- Meditation is a good way to lower both physical and mental stress. There are plenty of meditations on YouTube or there are meditation APPS. Some meditations are also designed for fertility optimization as well as stress reduction.
- Massage can help. The sense of well-being you get from a massage can lower the amount of stress hormones circulating throughout your body.
- Take up yoga, the poses aim to bring your mind, body and breathing together to improve posture and physical health and help you feel a sense of calm.
- You should be including regular exercise as part of your fertility-boosting plan and exercise is also a great way to reduce stress. Not only does it stimulate the body’s pituitary gland to release tension and give you a natural high, but it also tires you out, so you sleep better. Research also shows that regular exercise makes you less tense and better able to cope with stress.
- Also think about how you react to stress and identify people and situations that trigger stress so that you can minimize or avoid your exposure to those people or situations.
- Time management is also important so that you feel in control, so make sure you take the time to plan your day and prioritize what needs to be done.
- Another tip is to get organized and try not to be a perfectionist if you can’t do something and it needs to wait until tomorrow, don’t worry and overall don’t sweat the small stuff.
Stress reduction should be part of your overall plan of attack when you’re trying to become pregnant so make sure you are addressing any stress that you or your partner are experiencing as soon as possible and build stress reduction techniques into your day.