The relationship between stress and fertility
Stress and fertility
The role of stress in fertility
One of the most common questions from couples who have difficulties conceiving is whether stress and anxiety affect fertility.
In this section, we will try to give scientific answers to some of the common questions related to stress.
What is stress and how does it affect us?
Ask a specialist this question and he/she will tell you that stress is a pervasive, unpleasant, often vague feeling that manifests with fear, tension and anxiety and may be accompanied by physical symptoms (tachycardia, heart arrhythmia, stomach or bowel disorders, headache, etc.).
But let’s be clear here — stress is not NECESSARILY a bad thing.
Some stress can be very useful because it motivates us and brings out the best of us (e.g. athletes before a race, students before their exams or actors before a show).
But stress becomes abnormal when it is overly intense and makes our lives difficult.
Chronic stress (when there is continuous stress for a long time) can cause depression, sleep deprivation or even disruption of the immune system.
The mechanism by which stress affects our bodies is through the production of hormones.
An event (or even just worrying about an event) can cause anxiety.
For example, when a couple try to conceive without success, this MAY create intense stress and anxiety.
Can stress make natural conception more difficult?
There is no clear data to give an evidence-based answer to this.
Nevertheless, it is well known that severe stress can disrupt female hormones and affect ovulation.
It is no coincidence that some women stop menstruating when they’re studying for exams or when they lose a loved one.
Can stress affect IVF outcomes?
This question too cannot be fully answered, mainly because it is difficult to measure and quantify stress.
However, there are some studies showing that women with elevated levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) have lower success rates with IVF.
Is there anything we can do to reduce stress?
Coping with stress depends a lot on our character.
There are women who reduce their anxiety when they learn as much as possible about their fertility issues and -as a result- feel somewhat in control.
For these women, it is recommended that they get thoroughly informed about their situation, talk to other couples with similar issues, and generally collect as much information as possible.
But, on the other hand, there are women who get more anxious the more they know.
It is best for these women to keep their minds on things that interest them and practice their hobbies instead of finding out more about what they’re facing.
In any case, it is extremely important to have a good relationship with your partner.
Exercise that releases tension and relaxes us also plays a positive role.
There are women who have been helped by meditation, yoga or acupuncture.
Finally, all stimulants (coffee, alcohol, etc.) should be avoided since they tend to increase anxiety.