Stress and Infertility
Stress and infertility
One of the most common questions for couples dealing with infertility is the possible effect of stress on the ability to conceive. Infact one of the most common “friendly advice” provided to women with infertility is to “just relax” implying that the women’s stress level is the culprit for their infertility. This is one of the most frustrating feelings that women have to deal with when facing infertility since it is very normal to experience stress during infertility treatments and the idea that the stress itself might render things even “worse” or even decrease the chances of pregnancy, only increases the level of stress and the guilt feeling, and creates a vicious cycle that ultimately only increases the stress level.
Does stress increase infertility?
There is no doubt that there is a very intimate connection between the brain and the reproductive organs. It is well known that major stress on the body or the mind can inhibit ovulation by suppressing the so called Hypothalamic-Pituitary axis which are areas of the brain that regulate ovulation. Women that exhibit an extreme weight reduction due to anorexia nervosa or medical illness, also display abnormal ovulation that can present anywhere from irregular periods to cessation of menstruation. Major stressor life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, terminal or chronic illnesses and other major stressors can all influence ovulation and cause cessation of menstruation. It is still however, very controversial whether the day to day stress or stress related to infertility can significantly impact ovulation or success rate of fertility treatments and there is no solid scientific data that shows that stress can accelerate the loss of eggs or cause premature menopause.
Can infertility increase the stress level?
Infertility is well known to cause stress as well as increase the risks of marital conflicts. Infertility is considered a major stress event both personal and interpersonal. It is not uncommon for couples dealing with infertility to experience marital crisis, sexual dysfunction or experience true depression and/or anxiety. There is no doubt that decreasing stress levels during fertility treatments can only be beneficial. The application of relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, group therapy or individual therapy as well as the use of acupuncture and herbs can help tolerate fertility treatments better, overcome obstacles and disappointment and decrease the overall stress level.
In conclusion: stress is a very normal response to infertility and fertility treatments. The stress related to infertility most likely does not have a significant impact on the success rate of infertility treatments. The use of any relaxation techniques can however be very beneficial and decrease the burden and difficulty of any fertility journey.
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