Stress and Its Effect on Fertility

It is estimated that in North America, up to 25% of women and just over 20% of men of reproductive age are affected by stress each day. Previously, it had been suggested that stress could decrease the odds of a couple conceiving successfully. Now, a more recent study has found that higher levels of stress are indeed associated with a lower rate of conception, but only women are affected.

The study doesn’t provide conclusive evidence that stress causes infertility, but it does show that women who want a baby should perhaps consider their mental health as much as their physical health. In the study, nearly 5,000 women and almost 1,300 men were assessed for their perceived levels of stress. Study participants didn’t have a history of infertility and hadn’t been trying to conceive for more than six menstrual cycles. On average, women’s stress levels were perceived as being higher than men. The women with the highest level of stress were less likely to conceive than women with lower levels of perceived stress. If the link between stress and fertility is found to be a causal association, then at least part of it could be due to increased menstrual cycle irregularity, and stress can influence intercourse frequency.

How Stress Can Affect Fertility

The idea that stress can interfere with getting pregnant is nothing new. If you’ve already experienced this first hand, you may have had to put up with people telling you just to relax, but of course, that’s easier said than done. However, there is some evidence that stress can affect the function of the hypothalamus which is the part of the brain regulating emotions and appetite, and most importantly your hormones that signal your ovaries to release eggs. When you’re stressed, you may ovulate later than usual or not at all so your chance of conceiving could be lower.

One thing that is important is to decide if your stress is temporary or continual. When you are continually stressed, and it’s at quite a consistent level, it’s most likely that you will acclimatize to this condition and you will continue to ovulate regularly. Sudden stress is a very different matter and can interrupt your cycle, preventing ovulation. The way stress affects women can vary tremendously. Some women find a traumatic event will have little impact on their cycle, while others find even a simple business trip out of town can impact them negatively.

Usually, the easiest way to confirm ovulation is by tracking your body temperature. Most women will see a sustained rise in their body temperature for about a day after ovulation and which will last for approximately 12 to 16 days. Even if ovulation is delayed, it doesn’t interfere with the length of time you can get pregnant but just lengthens the entire cycle.

Coping with Stress When You’re Trying to Conceive

While you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to have strategies to help you deal with stress. One strategy is to accept your anxiety because all it’s doing is reminding you that you’re trying to do something that is very important to you. Another approach is to limit the amount of time you spend reading about pregnancy, and especially the amount of time you spend online researching Internet sites and forums.

All the information can become confusing and may well make you even more worried. If you are concerned about your ability to conceive, book an appointment with your gynecologist or healthcare provider.

Getting pregnant is simply a matter of timing for most women, but if you are a little older or have been trying for some time, there is no harm in seeking medical advice. Being unable to conceive straightaway or needing help in getting pregnant doesn’t make you any less of a woman.

It’s inevitable that between ovulation and your period you will be on the lookout for any signs that you are pregnant. It’s a state of mind that can make you hypervigilant, and a lack of symptoms can cause despair. Just try to remember that any signs you feel, or notice may or may not indicate pregnancy. When you recognize this, it can make the waiting period less emotional. Instead, make sure you plan to do something fun while you wait, and which will help to relieve your stress and anxiety. Don’t make conceiving the entire focus of your life and try to have other things going on that make you feel excited.

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