Stress and its effects on your fertility


Quick Bites

  • Infertility can create stress, but stress related infertility or fertility issues are also possible
  • Stress can cause irregular periods in women
  • Stress can result in low sperm count and sperm speed
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Introduction

How_stress_causes_infertility

Over the years, there has been a constant debate over stress and fertility. It is a common notion that infertility can cause stress and tension among men and women. The couple undergoing fertility treatment often finds themselves under exuberant psychological and financial strain. Apart from the stress due to infertility diagnosis, the additional stress of undergoing fertility treatment may impact the results of the treatment. Navigating the infertility issues and treatment is stressful, but do you know that stress can also cause infertility in both men and women?

The lifestyle we live in today is full of stress. Especially for working men and women, every day comes with new challenges. The workload and the constant need to succeed in life can also create mental tension in life. This stress continues to haunt them even after they are married and when they try to conceive. This stress can cause a delay in conception, leading to infertility issues. Research suggests that not only does psychological stress can cause problems in natural pregnancy, but also causes problems with fertility treatments, thereby delaying the artificial pregnancy as well.

In this article

 

How stress affects fertility and your chances of pregnancy?

Stress has become part of our daily life. We all know the effect of stress on our heart and general body, but do you know that living under constant stress can negatively impact your reproductive health also. The mental stress can affect your reproductive health in two ways:

  • It can delay your natural conception if you are under a lot of stress and have been trying for a baby.
  • You may have infertility issues, and the tension due to infertility may not let the fertility treatments work properly.

The body under stress responds in such a way that it creates an environment that may make pregnancy difficult. Stress can harm both fertile and infertile individuals making it harder for them to conceive naturally or via artificial reproductive technology. To understand how stress creates a biological environment within our bodies that can make it infertile, it is important first to understand what is stress? And how it works?.

Stress is defined as a feeling of physical and emotional tension. It can occur due to any event, making you feel nervous, angry, or frustrated. It is your body reaction to a demand or a challenge. Stress can be divided into two types:

  • Acute Stress: This type of stress goes away quickly. You experience this type of stress when you fight with your partner, go for an interview, before an exam, etc.
  • Chronic Stress: This type of stress stays for a longer period of time. You may experience this type of stress when you are having financial problems, stuck in a bad marriage, going through a disease such as infertility. Chronic stress may cause health problems if not treated.

The body reacts to stress by releasing hormones cortisol in your bloodstream. The adrenal gland perceives stress and starts releasing cortisol hormone. Cortisol hormone is also known as "stress hormone" is responsible for the "fight or flight response" of the body. It causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase and prepares your body to avoid the situation. In the short term, these reactions are beneficial as it gives a signal to your body to move away from dangerous situations. However, if the mental stress persists for a longer time ( chronic mental stress), it may cause health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, etc.

Not only can stress cause these conditions but, if you already suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above, chronic stress can make it worse. Stress can cause many emotional and physical symptoms that you might ignore or not realize on time. The underlying mental stress not only adversely affects your overall health but also your reproductive health. Stress can lead to problems with menstruation and ovulation, causing pregnancy delay.

Relationship between Stress and Fertility

Many doctors worldwide believe that stress may be a factor in reducing sperm count in men and ovulation problems in women. There are still studies being conducted to find a clear relationship between stress and fertility.

In a 2014 study, 193 men between the ages of 38 and 49 were interviewed and their sperm were analyzed. It was found that life’s stress (not work stress) was associated with reduced sperm count, speed, and the shape of the sperm.

Studies have shown that stress can cause mood and physical changes in women. The mood changes can decrease libido, affecting sex life.[1] Women who are frequently tired or stressed have less regular intercourse. The constant mental stress also affects the menstruation cycle and causes trouble in ovulation. These changes in the menstrual cycle are more prevalent in women having a night work schedule.

We may not yet be able to relate stress directly to fertility. However, it is evident that stress levels do hamper fertility levels in both men and women. Even during infertility treatment, stress can impact the outcome. Let's see how chronic psychological stress affects fertility treatment.

 

Impact of stress on infertility treatments

It is a known fact that people diagnosed with infertility had to go through a lot of stress. Although people going through infertility treatment may sometimes confess about having mental stress, most of them never mention having anxiety or depression. In a study done in 2004, 122 women interviewed before their first visit to an infertility clinic about their psychological conditions; 40% of these women complained of having depression, anxiety, or both [2]. A recent literature review concluded that 25% to 60% of infertile individuals report having psychiatric symptoms, and their levels of depression and anxiety are comparatively higher than fertile individuals.

The impact of chronic stress has been studied multiple times in medical research, and researchers suggest that psychological stress can increase the time of conception and reduce pregnancy rates for couples undergoing fertility treatments. A study conducted in 2018 found that among 45 couples undergoing In-vitro Fertilization (IVF), women who had higher levels of molecules associated with stress were less likely to get pregnant. Many mental health professionals nowadays have recognized that psychological factors like stress can impact the ability to conceive and thereby impacting an infertility treatment.

Stress not only decreases your chances of pregnancy but adversely affects the fertility treatment also. Hence it is necessary to manage stress levels while trying to conceive. Both men and women need to follow measures to lower their stress levels whether they are trying to conceive naturally or going through an infertility treatment after an infertility diagnosis, their stress levels may influence their conception.

 

Manage stress to improve your fertility

One can manage their stress by taking some simple measures and making some lifestyle changes at home. The following steps can help with managing stress at home.

  • Adjust your eating habits: Eating healthy can not only make you physically fit, but it can also help your mental health. Instead of eating junk food, try eating fresh vegetables and fruits. Include green and leafy vegetables in your diet. Eat fresh fruits, nuts like almonds, and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Meditation: Doing meditation at home can also help you reduce stress. Just a few minutes of meditation can help relieve the entire day's stress and help you find inner peace if done regularly. You can do meditation anywhere - at home, office, park, while travelling, etc. Doing regular meditation can calm your nerve and reduce your anxiety level. Research shows that deep meditation, along with breathing exercise and muscular exercise, can have a significant impact on lowering your stress levels [3].
  • Relaxation techniques: There are many relaxation techniques that you can follow to manage your stress. For example, various techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and guided imagery can help with stress management.
  • Counselling: You can always try counselling for stress management if you are looking for a controlled approach. It is a good solution for people who are suffering from prolonged changes in sleep patterns, moods, having problems with sexual intercourse due to stress.
  • Psychotherapy: It has been found that psychotherapy or interpersonal therapy (therapy that focuses on resolving relationship conflicts) can help people who are suffering from problems in their marriage due to infertility and infertility-related stress and depression.
  • Medications: If the stress due to infertility is causing anxiety or depression, your doctor might also prescribe some antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

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references

List of ReferencesHide

1 .

Stefano Palomba, Jessica Daolio, et al. “Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on female fertility”. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018; 16: 113, PMID: 30501641.

2 .

Kristin L. Rooney, Alice D. Domar. “The relationship between stress and infertility”. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2018 Mar; 20(1): 41–47, PMID: 29946210.

3 .

Balakrishnan Vandana, Lakshmiammal Saraswathy, et al. “Meditation induces a positive response during stress events in young Indian adults”. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): 64–70, PMID: 22022124.

Last updated on: : 28 Sep 2020

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