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Stress and Fertility: Here’s What You Should Know

Stress and Fertility: Here’s What You Should Know

If you’re having difficulty conceiving a baby, you probably want to know everything you can about why it’s not working. You can do a lot of things to optimize your fertility and investigate why your fertility isn’t up to par.

But one of the easiest things to do is to look at your stress level. Your stress level has a rather surprising impact on your fertility, but it’s something you can fix. In this blog, Dr. Richard J. Ramirez at The Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IVF explains more about the link between stress and fertility.

Is infertility just a mental thing?

The easy answer is no, infertility isn’t just a mental thing. It’s not as simple as “just relax and you’ll get pregnant” (which well-meaning but clueless people may tell you). 

But there is a link between stress and infertility. Part of this may be because stressed-out people are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, or drink caffeine, which can inhibit fertility. 

Your body also knows when it’s not a safe time to conceive, which includes periods of stress. 

The link between stress and fertility

About 1 in 10 women have difficulty conceiving. For many women, this may be a temporary condition. If you have a few difficult weeks at work, for example, it probably won’t disrupt your fertility.

But some people deal with bigger stressors or have more chronic stress, which can be significant enough to cause a problem with conception. If you experience a major source of stress, like a death in the family or job loss, it can throw off your ability to conceive.

People coping with infertility also often suffer from depression, especially before they seek treatment. Many people feel compelled to put on a happy face, even though they’re struggling. 

Hormonal changes when you’re under stress

It’s not just a myth that there’s a link between stress and fertility. Your hormone levels often change, sometimes in very significant ways.

When you’re under stress, your body produces more prolactin, which can suppress ovulation and disrupt your menstrual cycle.

The stress hormone cortisol is also involved in disrupting your menstrual cycle. This increases the glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream and helps your brain use those sugars more effectively. This is part of the “fight-or-flight” syndrome, which is useful if you need to escape a dangerous predator, but not so helpful in everyday life.

How to manage your stress more effectively

If you’re struggling with managing stress and suspect it might be interfering with your conception attempts, there’s hope. Studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy can improve your fertility, especially if you also have anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is effective at managing stress and anxiety. With this process, you learn how to identify your thought patterns. Instead of thinking such thoughts as “I can’t handle this,” you might learn how to replace it with a more rational thought, such as “this is challenging, but I can get through it.” 

If you’re having difficulty conceiving a child, it may be worthwhile to consult with a psychotherapist. If not that, you may still benefit from taking classes on mindfulness and meditation, to learn to manage your stress better.

To learn more about stress and fertility, call Dr. Edward J. Ramirez at the Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IV, or request an appointment online.

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