For couples experiencing infertility, stress is an expected and normal reaction to the difficult situation of problems in conceiving. However, after years of ongoing study, the question remains: What is the relationship between stress and infertility?
The understanding of how stress does or does not impact fertility is something that has changed over the years. In the 40s and 50s, stress was considered the major contributing factor for 50% of those who failed to conceive. Throughout the 60's, psychological factors such as ambivalence toward parenthood were thought to play a role in infertility. Today, fertility treatment centers continue to debate just how stress affects infertility and to what degree.
What Exactly is Stress?
When most people refer to stress, they mean the body's reaction to a circumstance in the environment that causes a reaction, usually associated with a negative reaction, within our body. Most of our body's reaction to stress is biological. The rise in blood pressure, muscles tensing, and shallow breathing are examples.
How Might Stress be Related to Infertility?
Though not yet completely understood, fertility treatment center studies do support stress as being a contributing factor in some cases of infertility. The hypothalamus, which regulates those stress responses, also controls and regulates sex hormones. The stress response in both men and women may be impacted as the levels of stress hormones are released causing both irregular ovulation as well as reducing sperm counts in men. It is thought it plays a role in up to 30% of cases of infertility.
Does Stress Cause Infertility or Infertility Cause Stress?
Doubtless, if you ask any couple in a fertility treatment center, fertility problems cause stress! It is not possible to separate emotional and physical responses. That is what makes life. This can make the question about stress a rather touchy one. Well meaning friends and relatives urging a couple to "just relax and it will happen" may be following the assumption that stress causes infertility, which puts a great deal of responsibility on the couple trying to conceive.
While fertility treatment center studies do support a link between stress and infertility, it is better understood as that it could be a contributing factor, rather than the sole, lone cause of infertility. Couples can take comfort in knowing that if stress was a reliable and major factor in infertility, then stress could be relied upon as an effective form of birth control.
Most fertility treatment centers will counsel that a couple experiencing fertility problems will most certainly encounter moments of stress and emotional upset. While it is possible to for this stress to impact fertility treatments, it is equally possible to manage the stress successfully.
- Remember the stress response is not always bad. It can motivate you to further action.
- Regular exercise is a great stress reliever
- Sunshine, in limited amounts is also known to elevate the mood
- Support Groups allow you to surround yourself with people who understand and limit feelings of isolation
- Proper nutrition gives the body what it needs to process stress effectively
Stress and infertility are forever complexly entwined. Rather than trying to blame infertility on stress, minimize unhealthy stress where possible and use healthy stress to motivate you to greater positive action.
As a part time author interested in women's issues, Andi Beark has found infertility to be something nearly 7 million Americans are facing. During her research, she discovered
San Fransisco fertility
specialists, RSC Bay Area, to offer information on topics from treatments to egg donation to adoption. For answers to these
and many more, visit RSCBayArea.com