Stress and Infertility: What’s the Connection?
The effects of anxiety on your overall health are widely known and researched, but anxiety in relation to fertility is less talked about. Read below for more information on the research found on this topic and how it may be affecting your chances at conceiving – along with tips on how to deal with stress and infertility for a happier and healthier experience.
The Science Behind Stress and Infertility
After recent studies, medical researchers widely accept the connection between stress and infertility. A recent study found that 40% of participants seeking infertility treatment were diagnosed with depression or anxiety, which is understandable with the uncertainty and stress related to the process. Additionally, recent studies show that women with high levels of salivary alpha-amylase, a stress-related enzyme, had a 29% decreased chance of conception. Lastly, stress hormones such as cortisol can decrease normal production of reproductive hormones and lead to abnormal ovulation and menstrual cycles.
From a general, non-medical standpoint, it is clear how stress and infertility are connected. Those who are experiencing stress are less likely to have sex and are more likely to cope with unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or drinking. In addition, stress can lead to unhealthy weight and anxiety can leave one discouraged to continue with fertility treatments. All of these behaviors inhibit chances of conception.
Thankfully, studies also show that receiving cognitive behavioral therapy can help reduce infertility stress. On top of receiving professional help, there are plenty of ways you can reduce stress when trying to conceive as well. From living a healthy lifestyle to finding support from loved ones, the weight of stress and infertility can be lifted from your shoulders.
How to Lower Stress During Conception
Practice Relaxation Techniques
The first, and maybe most obvious, way to combat stress is through relaxation techniques. Simply taking 5-10 minutes every day to center yourself and practice mindfulness can help calm your mind and relieve anxiety. Whenever you feel anxious, try closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a calm setting, and your body will respond as if you are actually there. Meditation is a quick and easy way to recenter yourself when stress and infertility are causing discomfort.
Manage a Healthy Weight
Anxiety can unfortunately lead to stress eating and a lack of motivation to be active, which can take a toll on your health and impact your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight and BMI plays a large role in your chances of conception. By eating healthy and staying moderately active, you will feel better both physically and emotionally. Speak with your doctor to determine a healthy BMI and learn tips on how to manage your weight to improve chances of pregnancy.
Keep a Positive Attitude
In this time of uncertainty, it can be really difficult to take this tip seriously. Of course, staying positive is far easier said than done in trying times, but it can have a large impact on your infertility journey. Shift away from pessimistic thinking that solves nothing and causes distress, and instead focus on realistic responses. For example, instead of getting down on yourself for infertility, focus on the fact that doctors, techniques, and support all exist to help you through the journey.
Don’t think you have to go through stress and infertility alone. Keeping your struggles to yourself only fosters a more negative feeling and doesn’t allow for a solution to be found. Whether it’s communicating with your partner, family, friends, or a support group, there are many ways to find support. Infertility struggles and fertility treatments can be a stressful period, but having the support of others helps relieve some of the emotional burden you may be feeling.
Staying active not only makes you healthier, it also helps regulate your mood. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America promotes exercise to manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, moderate physical activity helps raise the chance of conception. When using exercise to manage stress and fertility, be wary of working out too vigorously, as heavy exercise can actually lower your chances of getting pregnant. Maintain a moderate workout routine for best results.
It’s no secret that stress often leads to stress eating unhealthy foods in search of comfort. Unfortunately, this is only a short-term solution and can actually contribute to more anxiety down the road. A healthy diet can play a large part in your fertility journey. If stress and infertility are concerns for you, try incorporating foods high in folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D to boost your chances of conception and to improve your overall health. A healthy body is a happy one.
Continue Living Life
When getting caught up in the stress of trying to conceive, it can be easy to let that take over your life. While it’s easier said than done, try to push through the stress and take time to still enjoy the activities that make you happy. Boost your natural levels of serotonin by taking the focus off of pregnancy for a little bit and putting your focus into another passion instead. Take a walk, grab lunch with friends, plan a date night – whatever keeps you feeling happy and balanced.
If you are experiencing trouble with stress and infertility, speak with a medical professional to discuss the right path for you. Book an appointment with a fertility specialist to map out your journey and find the solutions that work for your growing family. The path toward conception is not always the easiest, but by following these tips you will find the benefits of reducing stress and anxiety during the process.