Does Stress Really Affect Your Fertility?
Dr. Renuka Dangare

Dr. Renuka Dangare

Jan 20Mental Health

Does Stress Really Affect Your Fertility?

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes several reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

Stress can be emotional as well. When you are unable to achieve your goals or are generally dissatisfied with your life, it can cause emotional stress. Depriving our body for 10 consecutive days of sleep can cause stress. When our body is under constant stress, it prevents us from thinking straight. This is due to minimized brain function. The flush of stress hormones can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, blood pressure level and decrease your libido.

What are some ways in which stress may show up in your body?

Stress may have started impacting your body more than you think if you find yourself experiencing any symptoms-

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bad period cramps
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad or weird dreams
  • Acne or pimples
  • A sweet tooth
  • Lower sex drive
  • Itchy skin
  • Muscle tension

stress and fertility

How does stress affect fertility?

Studies have shown that there is a direct link between stress and fertility. Physical, mental, and emotional stress boosts levels of stress hormones in our bodies. This stems from your HPA ( hypothalmo- pituitary - adrenal) axis being in overdrive. Glucocorticoids such as cortisol that are released from the adrenal gland then inhibit the Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH), and subsequently ovulation and sexual activity. New research has found that stress also increases brain levels of a reproductive hormone named Gonadotropin-Inhibitory Hormone, or GnIH. GnIH as the name suggests inhibits the release of sex hormones estrogen and progesterone from the ovaries.

A 2006 review of an ever-growing number of studies shows that stress can dampen or shut down the activity of the reproductive axis (the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonads). In October 2018, a new study from Boston University's School of Public Health found that women who experienced higher levels of stress had lower rates of conception, but men who experienced the same levels did not.

In some women, chronic stress affects ovulation by decreasing the release of eggs by the ovaries each month. Women under nonstop stress may ovulate less regularly, making it more difficult to conceive during the exact fertile window. Stress may have an impact on other aspects of fertility beyond ovulation, including problems with fertilization and implantation in the uterus. One study from the University of California San Diego found that the most stressed women undergoing IVF had less success every step of the way (fewer eggs retrieved and fewer eggs successfully implanted) compared to women who were not as tense.

How to Curb stress?

  • Prioritize your mental health
  • Reach out to counselors or support groups
  • Make sure you get a good night’s rest
  • Cultivate the habit of reading
  • Practice deep breathing and yoga
  • Never forget to remain hydrated
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Keep fit with a regular exercise of your choice
  • Adopt a positive attitude always
  • Master your time and don’t bring your work home
  • Take a break from the boring routine
  • Learn to say no when needed
  • Communicate with your partner

Memorize the four Cs: Committed, Confident, Calm, and in Control. This helps you to keep stress at bay. Stress may not be the only cause of infertility, though it will have an impact on your body. Enlist the support of your friends and family to help you out. You will get through this. Stress never helps us. Sometimes we need to step back to fall back on the right track.

This article is meant to create awareness among women. Consult your gynaecologist if you are facing any trouble conceiving.

We at Proactive aim at creating a world-class medical experience for Indian women and adopt gold standards in every healthcare initiative whether it’s a teleconsultation or a webinar. What sets us apart from the rest is our liberal, convenient, and holistic approach to healthcare.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

ProactiveForHer is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.