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Stress and Infertility: How are they Linked?

Stress and Infertility: How are they Linked?

“Just relax!” Probably every woman in this culture has heard some variation of that condescending remark, whether in a work situation or during a personal conflict. So when you learn that your fertility challenges may be partially a result of “stress,” you rightly bristle.

Life’s problems bring out extreme emotions in people of all sexes, and “stressing out” is sometimes a perfectly natural and normal response. However, chronic stress takes its toll on your body. While the connection between stress and fertility isn’t as clear-cut and causative as Hollywood suggests, it does exist.

If you’re struggling to get pregnant, our fertility experts Sharon Moayeri, MD, and Nidhee Sachdev, MD, at OC Fertility in Newport Beach, California, are determined to help you succeed. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between stress and fertility, and why it’s nothing to stress about. 

Being labeled “infertile” is stressful

When you’ve been trying to have a baby and aren’t getting pregnant, each month is disappointing. If you’ve reached the point where you and your partner have been evaluated for fertility issues and one or both of you has been labeled “infertile,” it can be a crushing blow. 

In fact, a diagnosis of infertility is often a life crisis. You may feel “broken.” You may feel like your partner blames you, or you may blame your partner. You may fear that the diagnosis will break up the relationship. These reactions are all normal. 

However, the label of infertility isn’t necessarily permanent. When we discover that you or your partner have reproductive challenges, we design a custom treatment plan for female infertilitymale infertility, or both.

Stress influences fertility

Although stress and infertility have long been linked anecdotally, it’s been difficult to demonstrate that association scientifically. One reason is because women who are trying to become pregnant or who are undergoing fertility treatments have a tendency to under-report symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

In cases of self-reporting, there’s no statistical difference between women who get pregnant easily and those who don’t. However, the story changes when women who hope to become pregnant are objectively evaluated by medical professionals. 

Researchers decided to test saliva and hair samples of women for biomarkers of stress, an objective criteria. When followed over time, those with higher stress biomarkers actually did take longer to become pregnant than those with lower levels of stress biomarkers. 

It’s OK to admit you’re not OK

Stress is a factor in infertility for both women and men. If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, we may recommend counseling that’s specifically designed to help you and your partner manage the stresses of infertility. You may benefit from:

Even if you choose not to participate in counseling or other interventions, taking care of yourself and initiating your own relaxation program can help you and your partner manage the highs and lows of fertility treatment. To minimize stress, be sure to:

Does de-stressing help you become pregnant? In one study, 55% of women who were involved in a mind/body program became pregnant, as compared with 20% of women who were not in such a program. 

These programs ran 5-10 sessions. They taught women — and, in most cases, their partners, too — relaxation techniques, stress-management, and coping skills, plus offered group support. 

The results make sense. Your body needs to “believe” that it has the resources to support and nourish a growing child. When you’re in a fight-or-flight state of chronic stress, your body reserves its resources for other functions.

You’re not alone

Drs. Moayeri and Sachdev and our entire team at OC Fertility are committed to helping you have the family of your dreams. If you’ve been labeled infertile, or you’re not sure why you’re not getting pregnant, we determine all of the factors involved and then custom-design a treatment plan for you and, if appropriate, your partner. 

When you take action toward your dreams, you take a step away from stress. Call us today at 949-706-2229 or book an appointment for a fertility evaluation and treatment today.

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