When a couple is trying to conceive and fails multiple times, the experience can cause an abundance of additional stress. In fact, research shows that stress levels of women dealing with infertility are equivalent to women with cancer, AIDS or heart disease! These raised stress levels affect fertility.
Today, doctors are looking into the idea that stress may be the reason behind many couples’ infertility concerns. Studies are currently underway to figure out if stress plays an active role. It has been found that stress indeed affects glands and hormones associated with pregnancy, but those variables vary from woman to woman.
How Does Stress Affect Fertility?
Stress affects the release of hormones that can block natural conception. It happens in both men and women by preventing ovulation in women and lowering sperm count in men. While stress is a normal part of life, constant, severe stress takes its toll on both men and women physically. This stress lowers the chance of a positive pregnancy test each month. If a couple does conceive and is still constantly stressed, the stress places the fetus at risk. Quite simply, the body responds to stress by preventing pregnancy and causing harm to a growing baby.
During periods of chronic stress, signals are sent to the part of the brain that causes ovulation. The hormones that cause the body to release eggs are not produced, preventing ovulation and making conception unlikely. Men who are stressed have a lower sperm count, so when couples experience the stress of infertility together, both the man and the woman are lowering the risk of conception.
Stress in Men
Doctors have found that stress in men could possibly contribute to infertility. Stress can affect libido, which can cause couples to attempt to conceive less often. It can also disturb the quality and quantity of sperm from the man, making conception less probable. Helping the woman along if she has to go through fertility treatments may cause a fair amount of strain. So it’s suggested that men who are trying to have a baby with their partners should also eat healthy, exercise and relax to reduce stress. Couples can use the option of counseling to assist them in relieving stress while trying to conceive.
Stress Effects in Women
While stress can affect sperm count, motility and overall semen quality, the effect of stress on the female body can compound into serious conception challenges. Factors including ovulation delay, low ovarian reserves and unhealthy uterine blood flow can all affect your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
- Uterine Health—Women who experience significant levels of stress have a decrease in healthy blood circulation to their uterus. This lessens the chances of a fertilized egg’s attaching to the uterine wall.
- Ovulation—It is common for couples facing infertility issues to track the woman’s ovulation cycles. This helps them determine the best time to conceive. Many times, emotional stress will extend a woman’s ovulation cycle. This makes it more difficult to access the fertility window.
- Ovarian Reserve—This refers to the number of viable eggs in a woman’s ovaries. When tests are conducted to identify the availability of eggs, they do not determine the egg quality. A woman’s feelings can affect her ovarian egg reserve.
Ovulation Cycle and Stress
All of us experience stress at different levels throughout the month. However, a study from the University of Louisville indicates that stress during the ovulation window can have a negative effect on the chances of getting pregnant. There are two different cycles that make up the ovulation cycle.
- Follicular Phase—This phase is the period after a woman’s period but before ovulation begins. A woman’s egg is maturing within the follicle. This cycle can last up to 40 days. It is affected by what a woman is feeling.
- Ovulation—This is the release of a woman’s mature egg. It then travels down one of her fallopian tubes.
- Luteal Phase—This is when a woman’s uterus is prepared for implantation of an egg that has been fertilized. The follicle that was a home for a mature egg begins to change. It begins to produce progesterone to thicken the lining of the uterus.
What Can Couples Do?
When couples want to conceive, it is important that they work together at managing what they are feeling during the entire month.
- Teamwork—This is necessary for a couple to successfully manage the stressors in their lives. Doing this can improve the relationship as well as improve chances for conception. Successful communication is key. It will help create a healthy physical environment for the couple and provide an optimum opportunity for fertility.
- Emotional Stressors—If a couple gets along well, it could be other people in their emotional sphere stressing them. Stressors not associated with pregnancy can put pressure on a couple’s emotions and bodies. When couples experience significant amounts of pressure to conceive, it will put pressure on their relationship. A couple needs to guard their relationship. They must be willing to tell anyone putting pressure on them to conceive to give them emotional space.
- Physical Stressors—If a couple has an exercise routine, they should maintain it. Should they not have an exercise routine, they may consider creating one. Something as simple as a daily walk together can improve a couple’s health and increase their emotional connection.
When a couple is trying to conceive, and they experience multiple failures, it can be very taxing on them. It is difficult to determine exactly how the stressors in a couple’s life are affecting their ability to conceive. Experts recommend that couples work to decrease the number of stressors in their lives as much as possible. This is a time when even physicians recommend partners try to find ways they can be more peaceful, mindful and happy in their lives, and couples can succeed if they learn what to do and what to avoid.