Stress – especially long-lasting or chronic stress – affects every part of your mind and body. Stress leads to physical inflammation, excess cortisol (stress hormone), and lower fertility levels in both women and men. You can’t avoid stress in life, but you can learn how to stop stressful situations from destroying your ability to conceive. The sooner you learn to manage stress in positive ways, the happier and healthier you’ll be.

Different types of family and works stress affects female fertility. Stress changes your body and brain functioning, and even affects how your uterus and womb responds to fertility treatments. The first step to stopping stress from decreasing your fertility and preventing pregnancy is to learn how work or job stress affects female fertility. Here are the questions this article answers: What are the effects of anxiety and stress on fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI)? How do I prevent stress from decreasing my ability to get pregnant?

Stress itself doesn’t destroy our health, attitude, mood, or relationships. It’s how we respond to stressful situations at home and work that affects our health and can decrease fertility. We have more power than we think to minimize the effects of stress! For example, research from the University of Utah shows that the stress of pursuing a career affects a woman’s hormones. This in turn affects her fertility levels. This study may explain why some career women may find it more difficult to get pregnant.

If you’re stressed because you’re worried you can’t get pregnant and may be infertile, read What Are the Best Ways to Cope With Fear of Infertility? Learning how to cope with work stress is a little different than dealing with the fear you’ll never have a baby.

How Does Work Stress Affect Female Fertility?

It’s important to be aware of how job and career stress might affect or even decrease your fertility levels. But, it’s even more important to know that you can prevent stressful situations and and toxic colleagues at work from destroying your ability to get pregnant! You are not powerless to change how you respond to stress. You may not be able to change the situations that stress you out at work, but you can change how you cope.

The tips below will help you take good care of your mind, body and spirit no matter how stressed you are at work. First, though, learn how work stress affects your hormones, fertility, and ability to conceive a baby.

Career stress affects how fat is distributed on a woman’s body and how fertile she is

Stressful situations change the fat distribution on your body. The stress hormone cortisol helps people cope with stressful situations by putting them into “fight or flight” mode. This mode can save you in the jungle if you run into a tiger, but constantly feeling stressed will damage your health. Cortisol also “moves” fat from a woman’s hips to her waist and creates a more cylindrical figure. The more stressed you are at work, the more your body changes. So, work stress can increase the chances of fertility problems for women trying to conceive.

A woman’s size and shape is connected to her fertility level

How to Stop Stress From Destroying Female Fertility
How to Stop Stress From Destroying Your Fertility

Medical research shows that a curvy hourglass figure – a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 or lower – is connected to higher fertility levels in women. The hourglass figure is also related to lower rates of chronic disease.

On the other hand, women with cylindrical figures (and more fat around the waist) may be less likely to get pregnant. Women with cylindrical figures are strong and competitive. They also have high stamina and more testosterone.

Men may instinctively prefer women with curvy figures

“Although the hormonal profile associated with a high waist-to-hip ratio may favor success in some stressful and difficult circumstances where women must work hard, there are well-known costs,” says researcher Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah. “Women may suffer lower fertility and possibly lower attractiveness to men who may have an innate preference for curviness.” Since men seem to prefer women with high waist-to-hip ratios or curvy hourglass figures, women with cylindrical figures may be less likely to be “chosen” in the first place. Then, they’re coping with lower fertility levels because of stress and biology.

Does your job stress you out? If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s a good time to ask yourself some serious questions – and talk to your husband. Can you afford to quit your job? Does your job bring you happiness and satisfaction? If you do quit your job how will you fill your daily life? Can you slow down enough to learn how to stop stress from negatively affecting your fertility level – and possible fertility treatments?

If you feel stressed at work and you can’t change how you cope, consider switching departments or roles. You may not be able to quit – especially if you want to take maternity leave after the baby is born. But quitting isn’t the only option. Carefully weight the pros and cons of learning how to stop stress versus quitting your job altogether.

How Everyday Stress Affects Your Ability to Get Pregnant

You may not even realize how many daily life stressors you endure: traffic, phones ringing, music in the background, future worries, current fears, coworkers, family problems, money concerns, health issues. You may not realize how stressful those everyday situations and sounds are, but they affect your mind, body and spirit. You may also feel pressured by your husband, boss, family, neighbors, and even financial or other institutions.

One of the worse types of stress for women who want children is the fear of not getting pregnant. Are you stressed at the thought of your fertility decreasing as you age? Perhaps you’re worried your ability to get pregnant, or even an infertility diagnosis. If so, read What Are the Best Ways to Cope With Fear of Infertility?

How daily stressors affect your fertility level

The constant barrage of daily life stresses your sympathetic nervous system and sends your body in a constant state of “fight or flight.” This damages your endocrine system and can even shut down a your reproductive system. Fight or flight is a state of arousal that can protect and help you respond to an immediate threat. Your adrenaline surges, pupils dilate to see better, your heart rate increases dramatically, and your breath quickens. Your digestive, urinary, bowel and reproductive systems get cut off. After all, there is no need to reproduce or go to the bathroom when you’re running from a tiger!

Stress is constant and overwhelming. Our modern culture pushes us to do more, work more, be more. Even “just” the intensity of the daily news and social media feeds are so traumatic that we can’t help but feel the pain and suffering of the world.

We are constantly answering phones, texts, emails, paper mail just to get out the door in the morning and get our real work done. We are constantly bombarded by advertisers, telemarketers, politicians, local business men and women, churches, schools, and neighbors, to give, drive, celebrate and donate. You may have accepted this as the way of life but it costs you all dearly in our health, weight, emotional well-being and fertility.

If you live in an environment of chronic stress – or you have a stressful job – your body is constantly aroused. You live in a state of “fight or flight.” This decreases your fertility and lowers your chances of getting pregnant. In short, stress is harmful to your health and fertility.

22 Ways to Prevent Stress From Affecting Your Reproductive Health

How do you stop stress from destroying your fertility? Take time to slow down, calm your mind and spirit, and make time to take care of your body. You can’t eliminate stress from your workplace, neighborhood, city or even your home but you can prevent it from affecting the most important thing you have: your health.

These tips will help reduce stress and improve your reproductive health.

  1. Work no more than 40 hours a week
  2. Take a Sabbath (day of rest) one day a week
  3. Choose a daily fitness activity you enjoy, and do it daily!
  4. Trade coffee for green tea or herbal coffee substitutes
  5. Read Prayers for Women Who Are Trying to Get Pregnant
  6. Go on a news fast
  7. Find something to laugh at every day
  8. Make love for fun, not just to conceive
  9. Pay attention to how a stressful day at work affects your mind and body
  10. Turn off your TV
  11. Use fertility apps and tools such as Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test to make getting pregnant easier
  12. Enjoy lavender aromatherapy at home, work and your car
  13. Learn meditation or contemplative prayer
  14. Write in your journal
  15. Try acupuncture or other holistic health therapies for fertility
  16. Sign up for six weeks of yoga
  17. Spend time only with people who nourish you; avoid those who don’t
  18. Listen to classical music or Gregorian chanting
  19. Join Resolve (the non-profit that helps couples who have a hard time conceiving or staying pregnant)
  20. Say no to baby showers or other stressful situations
  21. Learn how to deal with the disappointment of not being pregnant
  22. Nurture your spiritual health – especially your relationship with God

Ironically, trying to get pregnant is stressful! It’s not just work or job stress that decreases your fertility, it’s the actual act of trying to conceive the baby you want so desperately. Try different ways to reduce the impact of stress until you discover what works for you.

How to Reduce Stress During Fertility Treatments

In vitro fertilization (IVF) isn’t the easiest way to get pregnant, but it is the only chance some couples have. These tips will help you cope with stress and anxiety during fertility treatments, which may help you get pregnant.

How Stress Affects Fertility Levels and Treatments
How Stress Affects Fertility

“There is ample evidence that lower stress levels mean better female and male natural fertility, though there is as yet no conclusive experimental evidence that lower stress levels result in better fertility treatment outcomes,” writes Daniel Campagne in a research paper entitled “Should Fertilization Treatments Start With Reducing Stress?” Reducing stress before fertility procedures may diminish the number of treatment cycles needed before pregnancy is obtained. Decreasing stress may also prepare couples for an initial failure of treatment, and even make the more invasive techniques unnecessary.

Avoid unnecessary stress. If you and your husband are going through fertility treatments, try to avoid all the “extras” that cause stress: visiting with friends who don’t understand your pain, activities that aren’t necessary, unnecessary conflict, additional work commitments. Keep your life low-key and calm.

Take control of your home and work environment. To reduce stress at home, stop watching the news (it raises blood pressure and causes anxiety!), declutter your space, play relaxing music, and make your home a quiet haven. At work, stay away from negative coworkers, pressing deadlines, and rush hour traffic.

Consider acupuncture during or between fertility procedures. My husband tried acupuncture to improve his sperm health and reduce stress; it didn’t help us get pregnant but he felt relaxed and peaceful after the treatments. Always talk to your fertility doctor or reproductive endocrinologist before going to an acupuncturist, though.

Focus on the positive. Believe me, I know how hard it is to go through fertility treatments and face the disappointment of not getting pregnant. I also know that the more we focus on what we don’t have and what we wish we had, the unhappier we are. Instead of feeding your anxiety and stress, focus on what you do have. Some women don’t have the privilege or money to afford fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization; they’d do anything to be searching for tips on dealing with the stress of seeing fertility doctor. Focus on all the things in your life that you’re grateful for.

How are you doing? Your thoughts – big and little – on the impact of stress on fertility are welcome below. If you have any tips for preventing stress from impacting your ability to get pregnant, please share!

The research on career or job stress and infertility levels in women was conducted by Elizabeth Cashdan, an anthropologist at the University of Utah.


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9 thoughts on “How to Stop Stress From Destroying Your Fertility”

  1. 5 more tips for preventing stress from negatively affecting your fertility:

    1. Eat nutritious green foods. “Your body functions more efficiently if your liver is free of toxins, heavy metals and fatty infiltrations,” says Dr Julia Hunter, who founded Skin Fitness Plus. “The healthier you are, the happier you are – and the better you’ll handle stress.” Broccoli, sea greens, spinach and arugula are liver-cleansing foods that don’t guarantee you’ll get pregnant, but will keep you healthy.

    2. Don’t forget your milk products – eat goat or sheep dairy. Full-fat dairy products can help you get pregnant, so make sure you’re drinking milk and eating cheese. And, the calcium and tryptophan in different types of dairy calm frayed nerves and reduce stress. “Goat or sheep dairy is easier on your digestion and better for your skin than cow dairy,” says Dr Hunter. Sheep’s milk cheese, goat butter, or feta cheese are other ways to possibly boost your fertility and stay healthy.

    4. Eat honey, not refined white sugar. Refined white products cause inflammation in your body, which is stressful and harmful to your fertility. Honey is better than white sugar. The glucose in honey is absorbed quickly and provides an immediate energy boost, and the fructose is absorbed slowly, offering sustained energy. Honey consists of 52% glucose, 48% fructose. They are individual energy units, so the glucose is used first, providing an immediate energy boost, and the remaining fructose absorbs more slowly for the sustained energy. Honey also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that strengthen your immune and digestive systems.

    5. Smell the lemons. Citrus fragrances increase your serotonin and norepinephrine levels, alleviate stress, and boost feelings of well-being. Dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on your dryer sheets or a handkerchief, and enjoy the scent throughout the day. The scent will keep your mood stabilized and balanced, which will help you overcome the stress of fertility treatments, temperature charting, and ovulation monitoring.

  2. Thank you for your comments on work stress and female fertility! It makes sense that stress affects every part of a woman’s body, which may in turn make it more difficult to get pregnant.

  3. Too much stress is definitely not a good thing and does affect fertility. Remember mental health is equally as important as physical health so watch the stress levels!

  4. I was busy climbing the corporate ladder in the IT world, working full time and doing my masters part time. Life was challenging, to say the least. Then last year I had an epiphany after watching my teammates being let go. What had I done for myself in my personal life in those years? Not much really (although I have the best hubby in the world, so I’ve done something right). After the new org structure set in I got a more high-profile role with added challenges. After a month I realised it was yet another rung in the ladder and there would be more and they would all mean practically nothing in the end, if I didn’t achieve my life goals (of which starting a family was key). So I quit, took up a creative past-time and started trying to conceive (TTC) 6 months later. Guess what? I fell pregnant the very next week! I strongly believe that those 6 months of leisure totally set me up for a successful pregnancy, as the totally mellow and laid-back person I’d become was so different to the stressed out high-achiever I used to be – surely there were physical changes too. Of course I had something creative to work on that I was passionate about so I wasn’t completely idle and also took the opportunity to do some competitive dancing. TTC was also not a major focus for me, since I was experimenting with my freedom. I am now 15 weeks pregnant and wish everyone else on this road as much luck as I had. May your sweet dreams come true!

  5. Hi,

    even I am sailing thru the same boat. Its since 4 years we are married and trying since three years..I havebeen meeting the gynaes from last 2 years and undergone a lot of tests and treatments , still here I am with no baby yet:(( Although I have taken work from home from the last one year, in order to combat with the infertility, nothing has clicked so far. I am planning to completely get rid of the ofice work so that i can stay cooly and peacefully…any suggestion? at the same time I am worried that after I quit, I may feel even more frustrated

  6. You’re so right, Vanessa, that being job free isn’t being stress free! Stress can come from your spouse, neighbors, city driving, or even living in a cluttered messy home if you’re a neat freak (messes stress me out big time, and that does not help me relax and get pregnant).

    Good luck with getting pregnant, my friend. I hope quitting your job and reducing your stress level helps increase your fertility.

    I’m sending positive vibes and prayers your way for a happy conception…

    Best wishes,

  7. I believe all of the above to be true, though I have yet to prove it out. I also quit my job in June, taking a step off of Silicon Valley’s fast track. Fast-track careers just make it difficult to have a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and proper eating are always the first to go. That said, being job free isn’t necessarily stress free. It has been an interesting to remove my identity from my job.

    I hope to report back in a couple of months with some success on the infertility front.


  8. Congratulations on quitting your job! Life’s too short to be consumed by work, stress, and building someone else’s company or dream. And I love your quote – “How you live each day lives up to how you live your life.”

    Even if you waited too long, Gena, you can’t beat yourself up about it. It’s done, and you did the best you could in the past. That is, you made your decisions for reasons that made sense to you…and at the time, they were the right ones.

    That said — there’s still hope! Many women have children in their early 40s, and there’s lots of excellent information about getting pregnant and staying healthy as a 40 year old expectant mother.

    I’d suggest getting an ovulation prediction kit and charting your temperatures, so you and hubby can time your “moments of intimacy.” I’m glad you’ve been checked for infertility, and that you’re both fine!

    Good luck, and keep me updated! I’d love to hear how you’re doing, and if you get pregnant soon after quitting that stressful job. 🙂

    All best,

  9. For the last 2.5 years I have been working 50-80 hours/week with high stress. I don’t get holidays or weekends off. I sometimes work up to 16 hours per day and through the night. I am the operations manager of a company that is open 24/7.

    After my husband and I had 1.5 years of unprotected sex and no baby, we got checked out. We are fine.

    So last month I gave notice at my job. My last day is in 2 days. I did not just quit because of the lack of baby. Instead, I decided the stress of the job was affecting so many areas of my life that I had to stop what I was doing. “How you live each day adds up to how you live your life.” Taking that into account, I did not want the way I have been living to be the way I live my life. So time for a new start. And yes, I am hoping the change will help us along in the baby area as well. After all, I am 38. I am running out of baby years. I waited so I could advance my career. And now I am worried I waited too long.