Stress and Fertility: How These Are Connected & 7 Tips to Manage It
Stress is a normal and natural part of every human being, and that’s why everyone experiences it from one time to another. But, this does not mean that stress is good for your health, as it can affect various aspects of your life, including your capability to conceive.
The truth is that conception and stress don’t mix, and that’s why it’s advisable to avoid stress if you want to get pregnant. Fortunately, you can do things to manage stressors in your life. Here is a detailed look at how stress affects fertility, the science behind it, and reliable ways to reduce stress if you’re trying to conceive.
Does stress cause infertility?
The presence of stress in your life does not directly affect your ability to have children. However, it makes it more difficult for some women to become pregnant, and that’s why it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Many studies have brought this matter to light, one confirming that high-stress levels can be linked to low chances of conceiving and another one indicating that stress can sometimes cause conception delays.
While it’s not certain that stress explicitly causes infertility, it is clear that stress can make it difficult for most women to become pregnant.
How does stress have an impact on fertility?
By now, you must be wondering how fertility and stress are connected. Here are three basic ways stress can make things more difficult if you get pregnant.
Low sex drive
Each time you feel stressed, your libido will be affected, making it more difficult to get intimate with your partner as frequently as you used to. Some people even stop having sex altogether throughout the time they are stressed, and this is not ideal if you need to have sex every two to three days to boost your chances of conceiving.
The low libido and lack of intimacy are usually frustrating for most couples, and in some situations, it can lead to additional stress, particularly concerning pregnancy. When the stress surrounding trying to conceive the stress spiral or becomes worse, the chances of getting pregnant will reduce even if you’re within your fertile window. Luckily, this vicious cycle can be broken through therapy or other stress management techniques, enabling you to return to your conception journey.
Whenever you are dealing with a stressful situation, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to cope for the short term. But if you are stressed throughout, the body will still produce these two hormones even though you don’t necessarily need them.
Excessive stress and the constant production of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol will cause the body to have hormonal imbalance for a long time. This leads to ovulation disruptions, irregular periods, or missed periods in women.
Weakened immune system
Stress can affect your fertility by weakening your immune system. Since you are exposed to prolonged stress, and the body constantly produces stress hormones, it will be more challenging to respond to real threats to the immune system, like bacteria and viruses.
Stress also causes some people to develop healthy habits that further weaken the immune system. For instance, when you are undergoing a stressful time, you could be inclined to binge eat, drink, smoke or have poor sleeping patterns, all of which will be detrimental to your conception journey.
What’s the science of stress?
Understanding the science of stress and what it does to your body will come in handy if you are trying to conceive. Here is a quick look at what will happen to the body when you’re stressed, what stress will do to your body in the long term, and common signs and causes of stress.
What happens when one is stressed?
Each time your body senses that it is under threat, it prepares for action by releasing the primary stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. The presence of these hormones affects multiple systems in your body, including the respiratory, endocrine, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal systems.
When you face a dangerous situation, this response will assist you in fighting back to survive. It is the reason you can quickly escape threats like getting hit by a car or finding the stamina and energy to save a baby before they fall accidentally from the chair or into a pool.
Nonetheless, it is essential to remember that your body is incapable of distinguishing between stresses and threats that are physical or emotional. This means the stress hormones will keep responding whenever you are worried about a project or dealing with a life-or-death situation.
Although the immediate stress response is helpful when you need to act abruptly, prolonging it can be detrimental to your health. It can cause severe long-term health conditions like heart disease, blood pressure, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, low libido, and diabetes.
What are the prevalent causes and signs of stress?
If you want to learn to manage stressful situations effectively, it is essential to know the common causes of stress and the signs. Below are some popular situations that might trigger or cause stressful feelings:
- Financial challenges – losing your source of income or taking on debts.
- Life changes or transitions – moving to another state, marrying, the death of a loved one, or getting a promotion or new job.
- Time-sensitive matters – striving to meet tight deadlines and schedules or organizing significant events.
- Relationship issues – dealing with a breakup or disagreements with your friends or family.
Signs of stress usually manifest themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Below are some examples you should know:
- Physical: loss of appetite, low energy, constant fatigue, low libido, chest pains, frequent headaches or stomach aches, tense muscles, and insomnia
- Emotional: feeling overwhelmed, getting agitated or irritated quickly, having issues trying to relax, and feeling like your life is out of control.
- Cognitive: having racing thoughts, constantly worrying, forgetfulness, or inability to stay organized or focused.
What can you do to reduce TTC stress?
Enough with the bad news! You will be excited to find out that there’re various practical solutions you can consider to reduce stress, particularly when you’re trying to conceive. Below are a few activities you should try either yourself or your spouse.
Exercise to reduce stress
Working out regularly can assist you in blowing off steam and minimizing stress. The exercise works by reducing the presence of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) in the body and promoting the production of endorphins which can lift your moods.
According to the Australian Department of Health, getting about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic workout every week is essential. So, consider participating in such physical activities to enhance your mental and physical health. Some ideas to get you moving include:
- Going for a swim
- Taking a walk, hike, or jog
- Playing sports like tennis, basketball or soccer
- Cycling around the work area or neighbourhood
- Jumping rope or dancing
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, you shouldn’t feel intimidated. All you have to do is find a starter workout regimen that suits your requirements and then commit yourself to it. You can even make small changes like walking for 30 minutes a day or taking the stairs to attain your workout goals.
Yoga reduces stress
Yoga is another research-backed solution you may consider if you want to reduce stress. Besides helping you release tension, Yoga Australia offers additional health benefits such as improving cardiovascular and respiratory function, improving sleep, and increasing flexibility and strength.
If you’ve never practised yoga before or do not have a yoga studio near, you can always try out the free YouTube videos. You can get many yoga videos, even for beginners, and practice safely from home.
Most people assume that journaling is only ideal for teenagers, but it can help reduce stress in adults. Research shows that it can mitigate mental distress, improve physical function, and enhance overall well-being. You will also get empowerment to process your thoughts privately, air out your worries, determine what’s stressing you out and keep track of your feelings over time.
Do not worry if you have never written anything before, as you can always find an ideal journaling method to get you started.
Massage therapy for stress relieve
Everybody loves a good massage. Other than helping ease muscle soreness and tension, consistent massage therapy will assist you to feel more relaxed, particularly when you are stressed.
Currently, there are different forms of massage therapy treatments, so you will choose what suits you best. Some popular options include the gentler Swedish-style massages to deep treatment massage.
Consider booking a couples massage for both you and your partner as this will foster relaxation and intimacy.
This is a structured technique used to find inner calm through breathing exercises and concentration techniques. Many studies have shown that regular meditation can help minimize stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and lessen tension headaches.
While meditation may feel slightly uncomfortable at first, you will get used to it over time. Find some fertility meditation videos online (on YouTube), or get a meditation application. As you keep practising, you will notice the benefits of meditating regularly.
This form of therapy entails meeting regularly with a licensed therapist to talk through all your stressors. It’s an ideal solution to consider if you need professional help to manage stress and incorporate the other self-help techniques we have discussed above.
Some different types of characters you may consider depending on your personality or lifestyle include:
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
Never feel ashamed of seeking out therapeutic assistance if you are going through a series of stressful situations because the results are worth it.
You can quickly reduce stress by joining a support group. Most people today struggle with stressors at home or work, and there’s bound to be a group of individuals going through the same challenges.
If you join a support group that accommodates stressed individuals just like you, you will get a chance to encourage and inspire one another. All you have to do is speak up about your stressors or share your concerns with others. This will give you a sense of control over the stressors, help you understand them better, and find effective ways to cope.
Taking time to read self-help books can also come in handy if you want to reduce your overall stress levels. These books provide practical advice, encouragement, and inspiration to help you make changes in your life.
Most self-help books also have built-in journal prompts that will give you a structured technique to reflect on everything you have read and process thoughts through writing. Some even have corresponding online communities which offer additional support when necessary.