How Does Stress Actually Affect Fertility?

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Doctors have been discussing whether stress is a valid reason for decreased fertility with years
Though, the researched made on this topic has proven that stress has a severe impact on one’s health. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of stress’s negative effect on fertility.
The team of euroCARE IVF also invests a lot of effort into raising awareness of the negative impact of stress on your fertility. Thus, we are happy to keep you informed about what you should be careful of on your fertility journey.
Let’s take a look at how stress affects fertility and your health and how to cope with it.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires a change in the body’s function as a response. The human body tends to react in three different ways: physically, mentally or emotionallyStressors can come from our environment, but also from within our body and thoughts. Anyway, stress is not only caused by negative events. Stress can also be a result of positive events (such as promotion, getting married or expecting a baby).

Stress and fertility are not a good combination! Find out why…

Today’s fast pace of life causes chronic stress, and this doesn’t do any good for your reproductive health. As a consequence, your chances of getting pregnant may drop, causing issues with fertility and/or pregnancy.  No matter the cause, stress activates a chain of biological reactions in the body that can result in changes in the hormone system. These changes usually are causing various reproductive disorders and health problems.
It was concluded that stress alone is not a reason for infertility, but it can bring a lot of difficulties on your way to becoming a parent.

Chronic stress, the HPA axis, and fertility

Being exposed to stress can cause increased cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands around the kidneys. Increased levels of cortisol can suppress the work of the immune system. Furthermore, that can affect the digestive and reproductive systems.
As part of the endocrine system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) regulates hormone production. The hypothalamus, as part of the HPA axis, handles the body’s response. That response is usually elevated or decreased hormone production.
Estradiol, testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, progesterone, prolactin, thyroid, cortisol, androgens are hormones that can reach abnormal levels due to chronic stressThe imbalance of these hormones can cause complications in the reproductive system in both sexes. Additionally, can lead to infertility in both partners. Disruption in the HPA axis can potentially lead to the development of reproductive disorders.
All in all, stress and fertility don’t go good together!

Stress-related reproductive disorders and their impact on fertility

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

This condition is very common among women of reproductive age. Increased levels of male hormones in females can affect egg production, causing fertility and health issues.

The hormonal imbalance can also increase the risks of pregnancy complications. Within these complications are miscarriage, premature birth, and high blood pressure. 

Hyperandrogenism 

Increased levels of androgens (male hormones) in women show signs of hyperandrogenism. Very often this condition linked to polycystic ovary syndrome. This condition affects the hormonal balance and leads to decreased fertility in women.

Chronic anovulation

This refers to the inability of a woman to release an oocyte during menstruation. It means that women affected by this condition are not able to ovulate. Ovulation problems are another common cause of infertility in women.

Decreased endometrial receptivity

It is defined as the ability of the uterine lining to receive the embryo after fertilization.

There are several causes behind the decreased endometrial receptivity. Insufficient thickness (less than 6mm) is one of the most common and crucial causes. Further, conditions such as thrombophilia, endometritis, and endometriosis can also be the reason. They are all affected by imbalanced hormonal levels and can lower your chances of getting pregnant.

Impaired sperm production

Impaired sperm production can lead to low or zero sperm count. As one of the reasons for male infertility, sperm problems can affect the couple’s chances of conceiving

Decreased sex drive 

Since reproductive health depends on the sex hormones, any disbalance can cause low sex drive (libido). In man, the low sex drive is due to a lowered level of testosterone. Prolonged stress can also affect your intimate life. That can also lead to more tension or frustration.  

Other health implications of stress leading to decreased fertility

Stress can have other negative consequences on your overall health including:

  • sleeping problems
  • loss of appetite and/or digestive problems
  • reduced ability to maintain body temperature

The negative effect of stress on mental health

One of the biggest problems coming from chronic stress is anxiety and depression. These two are indirectly affecting one’s fertility. 

Depression can lower your energy and can decrease your desire to fight for building a family.  Typical symptoms of depression are physical fatigue and moodiness. Suffering from depression can decrease one’s will for starting a family too. Depression can also increase your fear if it’s going to get any better, often leading to anxiety. This can make couples unable to deal with the challenges of family building. It is often leaving them unaware of all treatment options available to get pregnant. Also, estrogen below the normal level in women’s body can increase the risk of developing psychosis in women

The unhealthy lifestyle that can harm your fertility

Stress can also have an indirect impact. It can trigger behaviors that can damage your reproductive health.

Examples of unhealthy habits are:
  • Smoking
  • Illicit drugs
  • Some medical drugs (e.g. anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills)
  • Immoderate alcohol consumption
  • Emotional eating
Some of these habits (such as emotional eating) can lead to obesity. Unhealthy weight can decrease your chances of conception.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

There are techniques that can be very successful in improving your coping with stress.

Most of them will help you focus your attention on more positive thoughts and events and clean your mind. Practicing these techniques will not only improve your chances of getting pregnant but also the quality of life.
EuroCARE’s fertility specialists also recommend these techniques in cases when:
  • if you are about to start your preparations for any of the fertility treatments in Cyprus

The following mind-body complementary alternative medicine’s techniques can help you regain control over your thoughts and improve mood:

Meditation

The meditative techniques might become your favorite very quickly because you can do it anytime, anywhere. Only a few minutes of meditating would be enough to wipe out all the tension. Meditation for fertility improvement has been recommended by many fertility doctors.

Practicing meditation will prevent an overcrowded mind with unnecessary and negative thoughts. That will lead to relief of the tension in your nervous system. As your mental health will improve, you will develop stronger mechanisms to cope with everyday stress. Isn’t that what you need?

Meditative techniques

There are several types of meditative techniques that you can consider to start practicing.

  • Guided visualization (Reach your happy place through using all your senses with the help of a teacher or guide)
  • Mindfulness (Increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment)
  • Qi gong (Combination of physical movement, breathing exercises, and relaxation)
  • Tai Chi (Type of Chinese martial art that will help you through self – paced movements and postures) 
  • Yoga is the most commonly practiced type of meditation. Through physical movements and well-controlled breathing techniques, you will gain control of your body and mind.
A common thing about meditation and yoga is breathing techniques. Proper breathing techniques can prevent stress from impacting your body.

Acupuncture

Studies showed, that acupuncture is successful in treating both stress and fertility problems. Acupuncture is considered an alternative treatment in restoring and improving fertility in the patients.

It improves sperm quality and the ovaries function. Thus, helps in restoring the balance of the endocrine system and hormones.

Get regular exercise

Practicing any kind of sport in the right proportions can improve your reproductive health. Sport can help you cope with stress, by focusing your attention. More important, sport can keep your BMI under control. The body mass index is an important successful conceiving. 

Also, easy exercising can restore the normal level of cortisol in your body.

Improve your nutrition

Not less important everything else mentioned above, proper nutrition can help you cope better with stress.

Lack of vitamins or certain elements in our body is making us more exposed to stress. For example, people lacking magnesium are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Food rich with nutritional value contributes to better stress management. It activates the release of serotonin and dopamine and that makes our bodies more resistant to stress

So, what to consider including in your daily meals?

  • Intake of magnesium. Either through meals rich with magnesium such as spinach, nuts, grains, or magnesium supplements.
  • Food that is rich with zinc, such as beef, egg yolks, oysters
  • Increase the intake of omega-3 
  • Food rich in vitamin B such as avocado or almonds, or vitamin B supplements
  • Food rich with calcium such as milk, yogurt, cheese, beans, lentils
All the mentioned above contains high value of antioxidants, whose low level results in anxiety and bad stress management. So, try to make sure you are keeping the levels of antioxidants in your body high. 

Maintain a quality sleep schedule

One of the stress’s effects on the human body is keeping it alerted and awake. That can often result in sleepless nights.

And, it is a fact, that the less quality sleep you are getting, you are more vulnerable to stress and moodiness.
One fourth to one-third of the population is struggling with sleeping problems. Imbalanced levels of estrogen can also cause irregular sleeping.
Whether it is a problem with falling asleep, interrupted sleep or waking too early, it can affect your ability to resist stressWithout a night of proper sleep, your body would be less ready to cope with stressful events and you will get in a loop bringing exhaustion.
The exhausted body can lead to weak immunity, and that is making you more exposed to any kind of health threat. You have to give your best to maintain your sleeping schedule and keep a certain discipline to improve your health.
If you are struggling with insomnia, before you go to sleep you can try some of the relaxing techniques mentioned above

Open yourself to the possibility of seeing a therapist

Be real with yourself and the present moment, don’t hide your distress and try to speak and communicate more!

Convincing yourself that everything is okay, and neglecting the stress is not a healthy way to cope with it.

The first step to resist stress is accepting reality and share your thoughts with others. That doesn’t mean only sharing your struggles with your friends and family! You should also try reaching to therapist’s help. Behavior therapy or Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be a good solution to improve your stress management skills. These therapies can guide you through ways of acting, thinking, feeling and dealing with medical or physical problemsThe therapist can help you to gain more control over your body and mind. Don’t be skeptical and embarrassed to reach out for help! Therapy and implementing body-mind techniques have helped already a lot of people.  

We are here for you!

Consult with our team and share your experience with us. We can be a helpful guide for you through any kind of fertility problem you might be coping at the moment. The IVF success rates of euroCARE IVF are a strong indicator of our strong will to help couples. We have helped already a lot of couples with improving their chances of getting pregnant. Moreover, we have helped them to get pregnant with a wide range of low-cost IVF treatmentsIf failed tries to stay pregnant, to carry out a pregnancy to term or multiple miscarriages are the reasons for your stress, then you are in the right place.

We encourage you to contact us, so we can provide the right solution for you to improve your lifestyle and improve your chances of staying pregnant

You are only a step away from getting free consultations with one of the best IVF doctors in Cyprus

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Resources:

https://parenting.nytimes.com/becoming-a-parent/fertility-stress

https://www.verywellfamily.com/can-stress-keep-you-from-getting-pregnant-1959951

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441

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