Did you know that stress may be a major cause of infertility in men and women? Long days at work, poor sleep, not exercising enough, worrying about life, undergoing IVF treatment, or being too busy to let your body stop, can force the body into a constant state of alertness and consequent fatigue. When we are under these pressures our normal reaction for the body is a fight or flight reaction. The fight or flight response is our body’s in built primitive, automatic response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived harm or threat to our survival, or in our modern day life a “stressor”. To have this immediate reaction our body releases adrenaline, noradrenaline, alpha amylase and cortisol, among other hormones, to help the body react faster, better and more efficiently. These hormones are great if we were actually under attack, but long term chronic modern day stress can have negative effects on our body and health.
Higher levels of cortisol and alpha amylase have been found to reduce fertility by up to 12% in women. This may sound like a small amount, but when you consider how hard it is for some women to fall pregnant it may be the difference between becoming a mother and not becoming one. Further research has found links between high levels of stress hormones and ovulation, libido, sperm count, and hormone production such as the production of adequate levels of progesterone. In particular importance to those undergoing IVF there is some suggestion from research that the active cortisol can cause micro spasms in the uterus which in some cases may reduce the likelihood of the embryo attaching.This can all lead to couples finding it harder to conceive, which can in some cases lead to a cycle of constant stress.
So what can we do to help reduce these stress hormones and our personal reactions to stress?
Recent studies have shown that couples who underwent mind body relaxation techniques and couples who actively sought alternative treatments to combat stress were twice as likely to fall pregnant whilst undergoing IVF treatment. Being able to “let go and go with the flow” is easier said than done, and may seem to some like an impossible task. However the benefits will outweigh the effort of the task in the end, with not only a higher chance of conception but also a healthier, happier lifestyle. Reducing stress doesn’t need to be complicated or achieved through radical changes in life, there are simple ways to start the ball rolling.
Simple life solutions can include;
- Eating regular meals. Making sure blood sugars are stable by eating regular meals can have a profound effect on our bodys reactions to stress. So try to have 3 healthy meals a day, and if snacks are needed ensure that you go for protein rich snacks such as nuts and seeds.
- Sleep. Research proves those that people who get 7-8 hours of sleep react better to stressful events. Theres also a link between the amount of hours slept before midnight, and the more restful the sleep.
- Keep hydrated and avoid caffeine. The old caffeine and stress link! Caffeine also tells the body to increase those stress hormones, so whilst it gives you the energy you’re so desperately looking for it will ultimately be draining you of energy and boosting your stress.
- Try to slow your mind. Meditation, exercise and even reading can calm the nervous system down and help focus your attention. Attending mindfullness workshops can help direct you in the art of slowing down, or for beginners to meditation or those who are time poor try smilingmind.com.au. Simple, user friendly, on the spot meditations that range from 1 minute to 30 minutes. Its a great not-for-profit website!
- Herbal supplements. There are some wonderful herbal supplements that can help your body adapt better to stress, these are best tailored to your individual needs by your naturopath.