How Stress Affects Fertility and Getting Pregnant

Stress and fertility are unhappy bedfellows. Here’s a summary of research showing how stress affects getting pregnant, plus tips on reducing stress so you can conceive a baby.

fertility stress getting pregnantI’m a huge fan of yoga for strength, toning, stretching, relaxation, and decreasing stress. Getting pregnant isn’t my goal, but feeling healthy and strong is! If you haven’t tried yoga for fertility, try Relaxation & Breathing for Meditation with Rodney Yee. Any type of exercise is good for dealing with stress and improving fertility, so if you’d rather zumba or salsa it up, then go for it! Get rid of those nasty stress hormones in your body, not only so you can improve your fertility and get pregnant. Don’t you want to feel better about your life…especially if you’re thinking about bringing a baby into it?

In this article, I share research about stress and getting pregnant. The bottom line is that feeling stressed can prevent you from getting pregnant – which is why I wrote 4 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Trying to Conceive. Below are a few quick tips for reducing stress and getting pregnant.

Fertility and Stress

Healthy women trying for a baby may have reduced chances of becoming pregnant if they are stressed, according to results of a study by researchers at Oxford University and the US National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, suggests that couples who want to get pregnant may benefit from relaxation techniques.

Stress and reduced fertility are linked. “This is the first study to find that a biological measure of stress is associated with a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant that month,” explains Dr Cecilia Pyper of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford. “We looked at a group of healthy women aged between 18 and 40 who were all planning a pregnancy. We found that those women with high levels of a marker for stress were less likely to succeed in conceiving.”

I wonder if a woman’s body is more focused on survival when she’s stressed, so it naturally protects itself from additional stress. Getting pregnant is stressful, even when the baby is a happy surprise! It doesn’t surprise me that stress and fertility levels are linked, and that stressed-out women have problems getting pregnant. Even so, this research study provides evidence for the first time of an association between high levels of a biological marker for stress and reduced chances of a woman getting pregnant during the fertile days of her monthly cycle.

Most advice for women who want to get pregnant revolves around quitting smoking, getting to a healthy weight, and eliminating alcohol consumption. Those factors all affect the likelihood of becoming pregnant. The advice given to women planning to get pregnant includes stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, lowering alcohol intake and taking folic acid.

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Stress has also been suggested as a factor affecting the chances of getting pregnant, but this has been based largely on anecdotal or indirect evidence. These fertility researchers wanted to understand the things that affect the chances of pregnancy for normal, healthy women trying for a baby. The study included data from 274 healthy women aged between 18 and 40 who were trying to become pregnant. During the study, the women provided saliva samples on day 6 of each of their menstrual cycles to test for levels of the hormone cortisol and alpha-amylase (an indicator of adrenalin levels).

How women experience stress hormones. The body has two pathways that respond to stress: one involves the release of adrenalin and the other the release of cortisol. The adrenalin pathway is associated with the body’s instant ‘fight or flight’ reflex. Cortisol is connected with longer periods of raised response and stress. The results showed that the chances of getting pregnant for the quarter of women in the study with the highest levels of alpha-amylase were roughly 12% lower than the quarter of women with the lowest levels of alpha-amylase, each day during the fertile days of their menstrual cycle. No differences in the chances of becoming pregnant were found for women with different levels of cortisol.

If you have a stressful job and you’re trying to get pregnant, read How Work Stress Affects Female Fertility.

Researchers don’t know if the stress of not getting pregnant adds more stress to a woman’s body, thus decreasing her chances of conceiving even further. Stress and fertility could be a downward spiral, unless women are able to find ways to decrease stress so they can get pregnant.

How to Reduce Stress and Get Pregnant

stress fertility getting pregnant
“How Stress Affects Fertility and Getting Pregnant”

“The findings support the idea that couples should aim to stay as relaxed as they can about trying for a baby,” says Dr Pyper. “In some cases, it might be relevant to look at relaxation techniques, counselling and even approaches like yoga and meditation.”

She adds that more work is required to understand the size of the effect of stress on the chances of becoming pregnant and how it compares to the effects of factors like smoking, obesity and alcohol. She also says more research is needed to determine whether relaxation and stress-reduction techniques could improve a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. It seems clear, though, that finding ways to reduce stress isn’t just a logical tip for getting pregnant, but a better way to enjoy life!

Quick Tips for De-Stressing

  • Find peace in your life
  • Pray, meditate, connect with God
  • Spend time with people who make you feel happy
  • Try Yoga for Fertility – 5 Tips for Getting Pregnant Yogi Style
  • Experiment with new hobbies and activities until you find something that occupies your mind
  • Get a dog and walk her four times a day (almost impossible for most people who work, but so healthy!)

It’s important to remember that what reduces stress for some women doesn’t work for others. For instance, I don’t like to watch movies as a way to reduce stress – I’d much rather walk in the forest or do yoga. How do you deal with stress in your life? Connecting with your own ways to reduce stress so you can get pregnant is the best way to deal with stress and fertility.

Source: Study suggests high stress levels may delay women getting pregnant, a press release from the University of Oxford.

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