Can stress get in the way of getting pregnant?
“Just relax! If you’re too worried about it, it won’t happen.”
“My friend Anisha had a hard time getting pregnant, and all she needed was a vacation!”
Unfortunately, women dealing with infertility issues hear these kinds of comments all too often. Women are told that they ‘just’ need to relax and things will happen naturally. However, the fact is that such comments can provoke anger, resentment, and even increase stress levels in women, who often long ago realized that getting pregnant is not a simple or natural process, despite her best efforts. And yet, stress and fertility are related.
Infertility can become a stressful experience for most couples, and there is growing evidence that stress makes infertility worse. In this blog, we are going to talk about the relationship between stress and infertility, so that you can begin to make an informed decision about how to cope with infertility.
Infertility – when it becomes a stressful experience for women
Most women don’t anticipate that having a baby, which seems so easy for others, will be difficult or impossible for them. Any time we find a major life goal is blocked, it’s natural to respond with anger, frustration, and sadness. These are common reactions in both men and women dealing with infertility. The longer infertile couples have been trying to conceive, the more stressed they become as they experience month after month disappointment.
Research indicates that women with infertility issues are much more likely to be depressed than fertile women, and the depression peaks in women after 2 to 3 years of attempting to conceive.
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The stress of infertility can affect multiple aspects of your life, including your relationship with your spouse, friends and family, and your performance on the job.
A study of 200 couples considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) found that 48% of women and 15% of men described infertility as the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study shows that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as do women with cancer, heart disease and HIV+ status.
Stress makes infertility worse
Stress has a measurable impact on the body’s functioning, wearing it down over time. Our bodies react to stress with an increase in adrenaline and other hormones that tend to speed us up, makes us more alert, and allow us to respond to danger quickly. This was adaptive when we lived in a time when we had to be on the lookout for attack by wild beasts as we foraged for food. However, in modern life the stress we encounter rarely requires us to get up and run. Yet, our bodies respond in the same way. When stress is chronic, as in the case of infertility, our body is continuously responding to stress. Over time, this takes a toll on us and creates an imbalance in our hormone system that can have an impact in fertility.
Recent research indicates that hormone changes caused by stress can interfere with ovulation and can also interfere with fertilization of the egg. One study found that men with previously normal sperm counts were eight times more likely to have low sperm counts after a year or two of dealing with infertility than men who had not encountered infertility.
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Reducing stress may improve your fertility
The good news is that there are studies which show that reducing stress can actually improve your chances of conception and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Researchers at Harvard study included women who had been trying to conceive for 1 to 2 years. They were randomly assigned to either a stress reduction group, a support group, or to a control condition where they received no psychological intervention. Within one year of entering the study, 55% of women in the stress reduction group and 54% of women in the support group had conceived pregnancies that resulted in live births.
Here’s, what can you do about it
Stress itself may not be the cause of infertility, but it can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Besides whatever stress you already have, infertility itself causes tremendous stress. Therefore, if you’re concerned or stressed about infertility, speak with your partner and listen to each other about your respective struggles. If needed, seek medical help. You can take help of homeopathy – being a ‘mind-body’ medicine; it corrects the root cause of your problem and takes care of your physical symptoms as well as emotional health. Also, lose weight if you’re overweight, quit smoking, avoid alcohol, sleep well, and live a healthy lifestyle to increase your chances of conception.
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