Does stress really affect fertility?
It’s a concept we’ve all definitely heard at least once or twice. The belief that increased stress can lead to more problems with fertility and sterility definitely starts becoming more urgent as we get older.
But is there really a reason to worry? Or is it all just one big ol’ myth perpetuated to freak us out even more?
As it turns out, stress does have an effect on the human body’s ability to have and carry children. This includes momentary stresses and chronic stress. So let’s dive into what that means and what we can do to combat it.
The Link Between Stress And Fertility And Sterility
According to a study by the National Institute of Health, women who experience stress are less likely to get pregnant. In the study, women were tested throughout their cycles. And those with higher levels of a specific stress hormone had a 12 percent reduction in getting pregnant.
Another study tracked women over a 12 month period. And it found that the couples linked to the higher stress hormone amounts had a 29 percent less likelihood of getting pregnant.
But it’s not just women whose reproductive systems react poorly to stress. Men have a similar reaction.
In a study by the American Society For Reproductive Medicine, researchers found that 40 percent of infertility problems in couples can be traced back to the male.
So it’s clear that stress makes an impact when it comes to getting pregnant for both men and women. But what exactly do these stress hormones do?
How Stress Affects The Reproductive System In Men And Women
Most of these studies analyze and look for an increased amount of a specific stress-related hormone. And that hormone is alpha-amylase. When levels of this hormone are high, it appears to affect the reproductive system in both men and women.
In men, stress makes it more difficult for them to produce healthy, viable sperm.
That’s because stress can cause sperm abnormalities and decreased sperm counts. Thus, there are fewer chances of the sperm making it to the egg.
In women, there are a number of ways heightened levels of stress make an impact.
One way your reproductive menstrual cycle can be altered by stress is right at the beginning stages. Stress can mess with your hypothalamus which controls your hormone releasers. This means that if you are particularly stressed, your body can delay sending out the right hormones to release eggs.
Another way stress affects fertility is that it innately changes your moods and behaviors. Stress can cause you to sleep more or less, eat more unhealthy foods and take up more bad habits which lend themselves intrinsically to an increased risk of fertility problems.
Both men and women react to stress differently. But it’s clear that there is a very real link between stress and conceiving a child. So it’s important that if you’re trying to conceive, and you think stress is playing a pivotal role, that you take action to reduce the stress that’s at play.
What You Can Do To Relieve Infertility-Inducing Stress
Stress relief isn’t easy. It’s not as easy as just “calming down” or taking a breath. It takes a lot of work sometimes to completely release that pent-up stress and truly relax.
And when you’re having trouble getting pregnant, that stress is multiplied. So, it’s important you follow these tips to find your inner zen as best you can.
Be Sad, But Grow From It
You’re going to be sad when you can’t get pregnant. You’re going to get emotional and you’re going to be upset. And you’re allowed to be upset.
You’re allowed to have feelings and show emotion and be affected by what’s happening to you.
It’s a long, stressful and grueling process — especially if you’ve been trying for a while.
Don’t bottle it up and push it away. Don’t stuff it down and hope it disappears. Be sad. Be angry. Get enraged.
But, grow from it.
Take this experience and learn something from it. You can learn something from everything — even these stressful times.
Don’t let the stress defeat you. Show it who’s boss.
Talk To Your Partner
Another helpful thing you can do to help lessen the stress you feel is to talk to someone.
More specifically, talking to your partner can open up those communication pathways and make you feel at ease.
You’re in this process together. And you might not realize that the other person is feeling a similar way.
Talking about your concerns is a great way to get them off of your chest and get both parties into the same frame of mind. This can lead to both of you coming together to find a mutually-beneficial solution to your stress.
Talk To Your Doctor
Another key player in this game is your doctor. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your stresses and concerns. They might have some insights from past experiences.
Similarly, they might also know other professionals that they can put you in contact with so that you can talk about these issues more fluidly. This includes a fertility center where you can undergo additional treatments like invitro fertilization.
IVF treatment is another way women can get pregnant and you should talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Health care is vital throughout this process. Mental health is extremely important. So it’s important that you take these problems to your doctor like you would a broken limb.
Don’t be embarrassed — this is what they’re trained to do. And they might have answers you never even thought about.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Another great way to try and reduce your stress and find that inner peace is to practice relaxation techniques.
These might included meditations, breathing exercises or similar classes that can help you control your thoughts, emotions and muscle relaxation.
Get a massage. Drink some tea. Have a glass of wine at the end of the night. If you have something that you know relaxes you — and is healthy — then do it.
Pick Up A New Hobby
While you shouldn’t try to stuff down your emotions and shy away from them, you don’t have to dwell on them. And a great way to move on from stress is by taking up a new hobby to fill your time.
The more free time you have, the more opportunities you have to stress and worry.
Instead, take up yoga or join a boxing gym. Join a book club or take up painting. Find something new that you love to help fill in those gaps and give you something else to look forward to in the meantime.
Take A Break
Lastly, another thing you can do to eliminate stress is to take a break. Don’t try to rush into conceiving. Take your time. Relax. Don’t dwell or get down because of it.
Sometimes your mind and body just needs some time to get on the same page again. And that’s okay. It’s healthy, even. And it’s not something you should be ashamed about.
And it could actually lead you on a better, healthier path in the long run.