How Does Stress Affect Fertility

Have you ever been friends with someone who has been trying to conceive for years? Eventually the couple turns to adoption and are either in the process of adoption or immediately after the child comes home and the woman becomes pregnant. “Relax and it will happen” is advice that is often given to women who are having trouble with conception.

But, it is far too simplistic to say that stress either does or does not play a role in fertility. Women have become pregnant in far more stressful situations than what individuals in industrialized nations considered to be stress today. In countries where there is open warfare and starvation conditions women continue to become pregnant.

The number of people who will never be able to conceive is actually fairly small. And, while stress does play a role in infertility, it is not on the same level as a structural problem or condition, such as endometriosis. More than anything, stress will injure sex drive and the production of sperm in the development of the egg. In some instances stress can delay ovulation, and if it is severe, it can prevent ovulation in a specific month. However, this is not a situation which is consistent from month to month but rather something that can affect fertility on a month by month basis. (1)

At this time physicians don’t believe that there is enough data to draw a clear and obvious conclusion from the studies which have currently been done. But many believe it is only a matter of time before we are able to connect the dots between all of the things that affect our fertility and the bigger picture.

Physicians do know that stress will affect the secretion of hormones, the ability of the body to produce an egg or sperm and the sex drive. All of these factors are imminently important in the conception of a child. Some physicians also believe that by reducing stress a woman can help enhance proteins with in the uterus lining that is involved in implantation. (2)

Obstetricians also know that women who are undergoing a severe amount of stress will stop menstruating. So while there may not be consistent data doctors do believe that reducing stress may help some couples conceive more quickly.

Stress reduction techniques may be used in the workplace and the extended family members. When couples are able to keep the lines of communication open between them it also helps to reduce the amount of stress that both are under. Unfortunately, this is not always enough to reduce stress levels and couples may need to seek emotional support outside of the family. Counseling, support groups and some books can help by learning that you are not alone and helping you to choose between other available options.

It is never appropriate to use medication in order to reduce perceived stress levels, but by using yoga or other meditative techniques you can decrease the amount of stress you perceive. Physicians also know that by decreasing the amount of caffeine and other nutritional stimulants as well as increasing the amount of exercise regularly you can relieve both physical and emotional tension. (3)

So, while stress can significantly affect the fertility of some couples it is not a challenge or obstacle that is so difficult to overcome. With a bit of practice and injecting fun back into your life this infertility challenge can be quickly eliminated.
(1) Fertility and Sterility: Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation

(2) University of California Berkley: Stress Puts Double Whammy on Reproductive System
(3) American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Stress and Infertility


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