Stress can interfere with fertility but it is a complex relationship. One aspect which makes it more complicated is that having a hard time conceiving can be a considerable stress in itself. People often say: “Just relax, and it will happen” and, though this can be insulting and extremely frustrating, there is a grain of truth to it.
Stress Effects Your Hormone Balance
That’s because stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus. This is the gland in the brain that regulates appetite and emotions, as well as the hormones required to stimulate ovulation in women and produce testosterone in men.
If the effect of stress on your normal hormone levels is severe then it could result in you ovulating later in your cycle than usual, or not at all. This is a recognised condition, which is sometimes called “stress-induced ovulation”.
Stress Impacts Our Lifestyle Choices
If you or your partner are feeling stressed, you may also feel less interested in having sex and may not have sex as often, which obviously does not help the chance of conception. Some people also find themselves more likely to binge drink, smoke or eat a poor quality diet when they are stressed, all of which have been found to have a negative impact upon fertility.
Other research indicates that stress may have an impact on other aspects of fertility beyond ovulation, including problems with fertilization and implantation in the uterus. One study from the University of California San Diego found that the most stressed women undergoing IVF had less success every step of the way (fewer eggs retrieved and fewer eggs successfully implanted) compared to women who were not as tense. Another study from Israeli researchers tested whether helping women de-stress while undergoing IVF could impact the success rate. They found that women who were entertained by a clown after they received the treatment (laughter is a known stress-soother) were more likely to conceive than those who were not.
Finding Ways to De-Stress
This is why it is so important to recognise that that taking time out to relax is not only important for your mental health, but for your reproductive health also. While it is easy enough to say “just relax…” many people find that stress is an unavoidable part of life, and have got used to living with constant low levels of stress. This can be avoided, or at least minimised by taking measures to combat stress.
Depending on your stress levels most people find a combination of de-stress tools used together has the most impact. Some options to consider are:
Sally - Acupuncture Fertility Specialist
As many of you already know, acupuncture is profoundly relaxing. This might seem counter-intuitive to those who have never experienced it but its true! Acupuncture has the added benefit of helping to regulate and balance your body so not only do you feel relaxed and refreshed you also know you are helping to prepare your body for conception.
Shanna - Naturopath
Chronic stress will deplete your body of essential nutrients, put essential organ systems under immense strain as well as affect hormone balance. Giving your body the right nutritional and herbal support can repair the damage that stress has taken on the body as well as build resilience and strength to enable you to cope better with stresses that you can't eliminate or avoid.
Counselling and Mindfulness
Katrina - Counselling and Mindfulness
Studies have shown that 'talking therapies' can reverse the effect of stress and boost a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. Women and men with hectic jobs are those most at risk, and are often most in denial about the stress in their lives, say researchers.
Being able to share the cause of your stress and have expert support in designing strategies to moderate the stresses in your life can make a huge impact. Also learning simple relaxation techniques such as mindfulness is an essential component to preventing stress form spiraling out of control and impacting on you fertility.
Massage and Pampering
As we know, so much of the stresses and tension we experience ends up being held in the tissues of our body. Massage literally stretches and releases the chronic build-up of tension allowing for deeper breathing, better organ function and a can transport the body and mind into a state of deep bliss.
Whether you love massage or prefer a body scrub or a pampering facial there is no doubt that hands on therapies have a big role to play in countering the effects of stress.
Whether you enjoying running, swimming, a walk around the lake or a Yoga class, movement and exercise is a fantastic way to clear away the tensions of the day and release feel good hormones like endorphin's which boost mood and resilience to stress. The key is finding something you enjoy doing and aiming to do something active every day even if it’s for 10 minutes.
We are Here to Help
If you would like to contact any of the Live Well team to discuss how a therapy or approach could work for you please call us on (02) 62950400. Best wishes from all of us.