Stressed? It may be affecting your fertility.
You may have seen these effects in your menstrual cycle, such as your period being late under extended periods of high levels of stress. When under extreme stress, the fight or flight response is triggered, and any system that isn't necessary for survival begins to shut down, including your reproductive system. Women under nonstop stress may ovulate less regularly, making it more difficult to pinpoint their fertile window and know the best time to “baby dance” for successful conception.
What are the long-term effects of stress on your fertility?
When your brain experiences high levels of stress for an extended period, it begins to send signals to the hypothalamus, which links the nervous system with the endocrine (hormone) system and regulates the pituitary gland. Together, the hypothalamus and the pituitary manage the hormones involved in ovulation, such as the LH hormone measured in ovulation tests. Stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can then affect ovulation.
Studies have even indicated that stress may impact aspects of fertility beyond ovulation, including issues with fertilization and implantation in the uterus. Evidence reveals that stressed women undergoing IVF have had less success throughout their process (fewer eggs retrieved and fewer eggs successfully implanted) compared to women who were not as overwhelmed with stress.
What can you do?
Practice breathing and stretching.
Try taking a series of three deep, smooth breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. To stretch your neck muscles, allow your head to rise with each inhale and drop your chin to your chest with each exhale.
Go somewhere special.
Close your eyes and visualize somewhere you felt at peace — a beach, a forest or a mountain trail. Mentally linger there, look around, smell the fresh scents and relax.
Knowledge is power. Educate yourself about pregnancy —get familiar with the different types of hormones and tools available to you. By understanding the causes of infertility and the natural conception options available, you will be able to make better decisions and feel more in charge.
Educate your family and friends about what you are experiencing so that they understand what you are going through. Join a support group or a program that provides an opportunity to meet others who are going through a similar experience.
We at Premom understand that fertility goes beyond tracking. We support your journey toward a healthy pregnancy -- mentally, emotionally, and physically.