Stress is often quoted as a reason for a failure to conceive. Couples are told to relax or may even be told to adopt a child, to get the pressure off them, and that conception would follow naturally. But the truth is, the relationship between one’s mental state and fertility is a complex one.
Today, research has shown that psychological factors, though important, are secondary to biological ones.
The stress in one’s life may be unrelated to the failure to conceive, though studies have shown that the anxiety and depression levels of women who cannot conceive are the same as those of women with conditions such as cancer, HIV and chronic pain.
Stress and fertility are related in a way that is not a direct cause and effect relationship. Stress can cause one to smoke or indulge in other lifestyles that may impact fertility. It can lead to depression that may result in failure to follow up with fertility treatment. High levels of stress may affect one’s sex drive and one may therefore avoid sex.
For some women, chronic stress can affect ovulation by affecting the hypothalamus, that part of the brain that regulates some of the hormones that cause the ovaries to release eggs each month. As a result they may ovulate less regularly.
Stress means different things to different people; one factor may cause stress in someone but not in another. Stress is all about an individual’s perception of a situation and their reaction to it. A little stress may actually improve one’s performance, but chronic stress can pose undue demands on the body’s resources especially if one is unable to cope with it.
Coping with Stress:
• Seek out a trusted friend or family member who can listen in a non-judgemental way.
• Try exercise, yoga or meditation: Learning to live on the moment can help put things in perspective and can have a huge impact on lowering stress hormone levels that can impact fertility. Exercise can also help by releasing endorphins which are mood elevators.
• Have sex often and just for fun: Try to bring the fun and intimacy back into your life and take the focus off conception for a short time.
• Get enough sleep: Sleep is regenerative and gives your body a chance to recover from any tension. Don’t work on laptops or screens just before bedtime and wind down before going to bed to have a restful sleep.
• Keep a Journal: write down what is worrying you-it helps to focus on issues and keep things in perspective. And keeping a gratitude journal-writing down every day small things you are grateful for can keep you centered in the moment.
• Seek help from a qualified counselor: Just talking things over can help. Try not to blame yourself and accept that with help it will get better. Getting your emotional health on track is a must for a healthy pregnancy and beyond.