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