Stress and fertility levels are related; in fact, life’s normal stressors can lead to both male and female infertility. Here’s how stress affects fertility levels, and how you can reduce the stress in your life.
The best way to determine if a situation is stressful is whether you feel out of control, says Pierce Howard, PhD, author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. The more out of control you feel, the higher your stress level is. And, your perception of an event or situation as is crucial to determining its actual effect as a stressor.
It’s not a pretty spiral: infertility is stressful, and stress leads to infertility. First, you need to become aware of the connection between stress and infertility…and then you need to learn to deal with stress so it doesn’t keep affecting your fertility levels! To get as physically and emotionally healthy as possible, read Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar’s Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility.
And, here is how life stress is related to infertility…
Stress and Fertility Levels – How Life Stressors Are Related to Infertility
When fears and anxieties don’t subside, the high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body become toxic.
The effects of stress include:
1. Adrenal glands spew cortisol. Stress activates your adrenal gland, which pumps cortisol through your body. This stimulates the stress hormone norepinephrine and the hormone/neurotransmitter epinephrine, and inhibits their breakdown.
2. Arteries constrict. Stress makes your arteries smaller, to increase blood pressure so blood can pump to your heart and other muscles with maximum efficiency (your heart can pump up to five gallons a minute!).
3. Vessels constrict. Stress constricts or makes smaller blood vessels to the skin, kidneys, and digestive tract. This shuts down digestion and maximizes readiness for “fight or flight.” In my “Acupuncture and Fertility” article, I describe how acupuncture can open blood vessels to help with infertility.
4. Fat metabolizes. You need energy when you’re stressed, so fat from fatty cells and glucose from the liver is used for energy. However, people who are stressed are also more prone to gain weight because they’re not digesting food properly – or often eating right to begin with!
How does stress affect fertility levels?
According to Pierce Howard, life-threatening results of chronic stress can include infertility, accident-proneness, addictions, kidney disease, mental illness, and more.
“In addition, chronic stress can result in energy depletion, depression, insecurity, impotence or frigidity, apathy, emotional withdrawal, insomnia, chronic fatigue, helplessness or hopelessness, anxiety, confusion, lack of concentration, and poor memory,” writes Howard in The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research. These symptoms of stress affect fertility by weakening relationships, hindering libido, and affecting your body in negative ways.
Read 6 Tips for Coping With Infertility Stress to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
If you’re a working woman, you might be interested in reading Does Career Stress Lead to Infertility in Women?
Source: Pierce Howard’s The Owner’s Manual for the Brain (Bard Press, 2006) pages 815-816.