Are you trying to conceive a baby, but are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed most of the time? Being able to relax and unwind is very important, as excessive amounts of stress can have a very real effect on your reproductive health.
The effect of stress on your fertility depends on a very small organ – the pituitary gland1. This gland is responsible for ovulation and it will send a signal of hormones through the bloodstream which will cause the egg to mature. Then it sends out hormones that trigger ovulation. However, when you are stressed out there are other hormones that are released in the brain, which will mess up the hormone cycle.
When stress interferes in this way, it can cause a chain reaction that can prevent ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, it doesn’t matter how many times you have sex – the sperm will not have an egg to fertilize.
The tendency of the body to shut down fertility in times of stress makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. In the past, our ancestors were probably stressed because there was a present danger in the environment or there wasn’t enough resources – which is not a situation that you want to bring a baby into.
Also, when you are stressed out you probably won’t be having sex as often, as feeling tense and unhappy doesn’t put you in the mood. Also, when you are under a lot of stress you are more likely to drink heavy or smoke as a coping mechanism, which is also harmful for your fertility.
Stress from the Fear of Infertility
One of the common problems that couples have is that they are worried and stressed out about whether or not they will be able to conceive. They may have been trying for a while, but the longer it takes the more anxious they become. They wonder if there is something seriously wrong with them, if they will never be able to have a baby, if their hopes of starting a family have slipped away from them.
This is an ironic downward spiral. The more the couple worry about conceiving a baby, the less likely it will be to happen. The stress has a negative effect on fertility and will drastically reduce the chances.
This is why you often see so many couples who conceive a baby as soon as they stop trying and decide to start looking into another method such as adoption or IVF. Suddenly the pressure is off and they relax. Sex becomes for fun again rather than a means to an end. The lack of pressure helps the entire body to move back into a state of ease, which allows the reproductive system to start functioning again. And that is why some TTC websites recommend you to try while on a vacation (hence, the term: conceptionmoon).
Of course, the fear of being infertile is not the only reason why you might be stressed. There are a lot of factors that can cause stress in life. They can include having a demanding and fast paced job, having conflicts with friends or family members, living in an unsafe area, dealing with a difficult life event such as a move or a dead of a loved one and many other situations. It is important to determine what aspect of your life is causing you the most stress, so that you can try to find a solution that will eliminate the stress.
How to Reduce Stress
Relaxing and reducing stress can be one of the best things that you can do for your overall health, as well as improving your fertility. Here are some tips that can help you to relax.
- Try practicing deep breathing, which breathing deeply from your belly and letting the breath out slowly.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain and these positive chemicals will help you to feel more calm.
- Reduce stress in your life. If your job is stressful, look for a different one or try to make some changes at work to reduce the stress2. In fact, an unfortunate female friend whom manage to get pregnant after trying for so long suffered a miscarriage afterwards all because of work stress. And if someone in your life causes you a lot of stress, have as little contact with them as possible.
- Give yoga a try. This peaceful practice can be great for your health and can really help you to relax.
- If you suffer from depression and anxiety, seek out the help of a professional counselor.
- Take up a hobby that you enjoy, whether it is painting, sewing, playing chess or building model railways. Being immersed in something creative can be a very calming experience.
- Talk to your friends. Sometimes venting to a close friend about your stresses will really help you to calm down and feel better.
- Eat a healthy diet, especially low GI foods. If your body is well nourished you will be better prepared to cope with stress. Low GI foods also prevent you from having an ‘energy crash’. Start your day off with a healthy breakfast and continue with well balanced and nutritious meals throughout the day.
- Cut down on caffeine and sugar. It might give you a temporary high, but it will ultimately result in a crash of energy and mood.
- Get enough sleep. Sleeping is your body’s chance to repair itself, so it is very important. Also, when you are sleep deprived it will increase stress because your mind will be less capable of thinking rationally.
- Set aside time in your schedule to relax and recharge. It is important to take this time and if you don’t make it a priority, other obligations can encroach and leave you no time for yourself.
- Try to have a sense of humour when things go wrong. When you can laugh at yourself this will help you to relax and not take obstacles too seriously.
- Go for a walk and spend time in nature, it is proven to have a relaxing effect. Take a few deep breaths of the fresh air and sit in silence for a moment or two.
These are just a few of the ways that you can reduce stress, so that it will not have a negative effect on your fertility and the overall health of your body.
- UC Berkeley News. Stress puts double whammy on reproductive system. http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/06/15_stress.shtml (Accessed April 2016) ↩
- DailyMail. Desperate To Conceive?. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2590189/Desperate-conceive-Then-high-flying-job-research-shows-stress-causes-infertility-experts-blunt-warning.html (Accessed April 2016) ↩