We’ve always heard that stress affects fertility negatively. Almost every couple struggling to conceive will certainly have received this sage piece of advice, “You’re trying too hard. Just relax.”
But how sound are these beliefs? Are they supported by any scientific evidence at all??
We decided to dig a little deeper. The medical community stands divided in their opinions on this issue. If you speak to enough doctors, you’ll find conflicting views and contradictory advice. The dilemma is further compounded by the fact that both sides are neither completely wrong nor completely right. However, the general consensus seems to be that there is a connection between stress and infertility.
Let’s look at both sides of the coin
Those who say YES:
- The White Lotus journal of medicine claims that there is a very strong connection between stress and infertility. In order to combat stress, our body produces many hormones that supercharge the brain in order to increase survival. But those hormones can often be counterproductive when trying to conceive.
- Progesterone is a hormone that is essential in the right balance if you want to become pregnant and stay pregnant. Stress has been known to cause fluctuations in the levels of this hormone.
Those who say NO:
- In a recent study carried out by researchers from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, 400 couples were tested for links between stress and fertility. Most couples in this study (87%) successfully conceived over the 12 months.
- Clearly, the results of this study negate this popular belief.
Those who say MAYBE:
- Doctors at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine News, believe that although there might exist a connection between the two, “right now there aren’t enough data to draw a clear and obvious link”.
- Dr. Lynch, one of the lead doctors on the study team, said, “Exactly how stress affects fertility is ? not well understood.” So while they do not completely overrule a connection with stress, they are definitely sceptical about its impact.
Why the discrepancies?
- Inconsistent definition of “Stress”: Every study defines stress differently, and that’s because what is stressful to you might not be stressful to someone else. As a result, results of studies are far from being universal.
- Dissimilar control variables: Not only are the definitions of stress different, the parameters used to measure stress are not same for all the tests either. Again, that affects the universality of the results.
- Age groups under the studies cannot be compared to each other.
- Variations in the studies: Inherent variations built right into the various statistical models used in these studies create further problems Each method comes with its own limitations and errors.
Other effects of stress:
- When it comes to IVF, 3 studies have independently established that stress has negative effects.
- The effect of stress on progesterone levels can interfere with the natural immune process, leading to early pregnancy loss.
Alternative View: Can infertility cause stress?
Being unable to get pregnant when you want to can be a huge source of stress, anxiety, and depression. So the relationship between stress and infertility is a two-way street – infertility causes stress and stress can contribute to infertility as well.
How can I reduce stress related to infertility?
The advice, “Just relax!” simply doesn’t cut it fine when we talk about curing infertility. Stress is usually caused by some deep-rooted problem and you have to try out various options to get the best results. Some of the techniques could be:
- Meditation to calm the mind.
- Sleep early and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
- Encourage intimacy with your partner. It has been known to reduce anxiety.
- 10 min stress exercises repeated regularly throughout the day are a great way to let go off of some steam.