According to a 2018 study, “the impact of stress on assisted reproductive treatment (ART) outcome is still somewhat controversial. However, it is clear that psychological interventions for women with infertility have the potential to decrease anxiety and depression and may well lead to significantly higher pregnancy rates.”
We know that stress influences reproductive hormones in both men and women. We also know that optimal hormone levels play a significant role in conception.
Male Fertility and Stress
Emotional stress in men may lead to a decrease in the hormones necessary to produce sperm. Ongoing stress may even negatively influence sperm count. Further, research has shown that pregnancy rates are lower when men suffer from severe depression. Depression sometimes follows stress.
Depression or stress in men may also contribute to:
- Sexual dysfunction, including decreased ejaculation.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Erectile dysfunction.
Female Fertility and Stress
According to another 2018 study, “Psychological stress disturbs reproductive health by inducing the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and thereby oxidative stress (OS). The increased OS may affect the physiology of [the] ovary, oocyte quality and cause female reproductive health disorders.”
In other words, stress may affect your ovaries and the quality of your eggs.
Additionally, stress can influence female sex drive.
Prolonged stress may also lead to changes in weight, which can affect monthly hormone cycles in women.
Stress Cycles and Infertility
Often, when people are trying to get pregnant, the anxiety of trying leads to stress. Questions about your fertility can up your anxiety levels.
- Should I use an egg donor?
- Can I wait a while or try again now?
- Should I freeze my eggs?
- Am I ovulating normally?
- Is my sperm count good enough?
- Will I ever get pregnant?
- How much will fertility treatment cost?
Without guidance, your issues with fertility and stress can feed each other. In other words, you are stressed because of infertility, or stress is coming from another place and influencing your fertility. Often, it is both.
Tips to Help Relieve Stress
Remember, stress does not cause infertility, but the hormonal changes associated with stress can contribute or prolong the process. This is why it is imperative to get stress under control.
At GENESIS, we believe in taking care of the whole person on their journey to parenthood. This includes your emotional health and wellness, including your stress. We have a psychologist who specializes in infertility; meaning a trained and caring professional can help you manage your stress while you are trying to conceive. We also offer virtual support groups.
Meanwhile, we recommend the following tips to reduce stress:
Spend Time Outdoors
Upping your Vitamin D with sunshine is a great way to manage stress and improve your health. Besides, studies have shown that nature is a natural stress reducer.
Give Yourself a Break
Psychology Today suggests taking time out from worry with competitive board games or other activities. In other words, give yourself time away from waiting and hoping.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Spend some time breathing and gently stretching. Clear your head, put on some soft music, and allow your mind and body to relax.
Do Something Nice for Yourself
Get yourself a facial or a haircut. Treat yourself to a new outfit or a nice dinner. Watch a favorite film.
Treat Yourself the Way You Treat Others
Be supportive of your choices. Treat yourself with all the kindness and compassion that you would bestow on another. Allow yourself to make errors without judgment. Allow yourself to grieve, but then realize that there is still a lot of hope when it comes to your pregnancy goals!
With GENESIS, you are never alone when you are trying to become pregnant. We provide fertility treatment and emotional support to patients in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Staten Island and lower Manhattan, New York.
Original post April 2, 2019
Updated April 2, 2021
Updated December 12, 2022