We've all heard of couples who spend years undergoing all manner of tests, procedures, and infertility treatments in trying to conceive their first child. Many achieve their miracle through adoption - and then successfully conceive. Researchers have been studying the stress/fertility paradox and some are now suggesting a link.
Many people expend a great deal of energy just contemplating parenthood; the decision to start a family follows long and careful consideration. After all this planning, it can be heart-wrenching when the miracle of conception remains elusive.
We’ve all heard of couples who spend years undergoing all manner of tests, procedures, and infertility treatments in trying to conceive their first child. Many achieve their miracle through adoption–and then successfully conceive. Researchers have been studying the stress/fertility paradox and some are now suggesting a link.
Women and Stress
A 2004 study from the Netherlands reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility in February 2004 found that 26 percent of women who chose to drop out of infertility treatment after their first treatment cycle went on to become pregnant. Thirteen percent of women who dropped out after the second treatment cycle also became pregnant afterward.
The author of this report, Dr. Alice Domar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has conducted studies involving women undergoing infertility treatments that show the more stressed these women are, the less likely they are to conceive.
Men and Stress
Although the impact of male stress on fertility is not as great as that of female stress, it can play a part in the quality, number, and motility of sperm. In a study of more than 800 couples followed over 12 months, researchers from the United Kingdom and Denmark showed that men experiencing stress—especially personal and marital–had a lower likelihood of achieving pregnancy via infertility treatment.
Unfortunately, the causes of infertility are complex and often elusive. Working out the harmful stresses in your life, however, is a logical first step that can not only provide overall health benefits but may also open the door to your own personal miracle.
Reducing stress may not be the answer to all infertility problems, but it’s a good place to start.
Healthy choices: Quit smoking; find your optimum weight; eat a healthy, balanced diet; sleep well; cut back on caffeine and alcohol; and decrease your exercise intensity, which can interfere with the production of reproductive hormones.
Yoga relaxes body and mind and can help banish negative thoughts.
Meditation reduces the production of stress hormones while indirectly boosting levels of reproductive hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone, by increasing serotonin and melatonin production. (Serotonin and melatonin stimulate the pituitary gland, where these reproductive hormones are produced.)
Visualization can be an effective form of stress reduction. It removes you mentally, if not physically, from a difficult situation. Close your eyes and imagine that you are in a place that makes you feel good–under the cool shade of a tree or floating in a warm lake.
Acupuncture may boost blood flow to your uterus, creating conditions that facilitate conception. A 2002 study of in vitro fertility patients found that those who had acupuncture before and after embryo transfer had nearly double the conception rate of those in a control group.