Why Stress Could Be Stopping You From Getting Pregnant And What To Do About It

Trying To Get Pregnant Is Stressful

Don’t underestimate the stress that trying for a baby can create. Research shows that trying for a baby for more than a year, is as stressful as having a terminal disease like cancer 1.

The Longer It Takes You To Get Pregnant, The More Stressful It Becomes

When you start trying for a baby, it can be really exciting, but it doesn’t take long before the seeds of doubt and worry creep in. A research study showed that stress levels significantly rise after five months of trying to get pregnant 2.

Stress Can Cause Infertility

We know that the more stressed you get, the harder it is to get pregnant. A research study assessed a group of women without fertility problems and saw how increased stress reduced their chances of getting pregnant 3. This study was the first that physically tested stress. It analysed levels of alpha-amylase to assess stress levels. Alpha-amylase is a substance found in saliva that is produced as a response to stress.

The Stress Response

The stress response, also known as fight-flight-freeze is when your body detects danger and automatically produces stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to help you move quickly and get out of a potentially threatening situation. Short term this is useful, but what happens to your fertility and ability to get pregnant if you have long-term stress?

Long-Term Stress Stops You From Getting Pregnant

Stress becomes a problem when it’s chronic because your body gets stuck in an in-between stage. It’s not in full fight-fight-freeze but it’s not relaxed either. It continually releases stress hormones and this can affect all organs and systems within the body including the reproductive system.

Stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) disrupt sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, follicle stimulating hormones and luteinising hormone). When you’re stressed you produce fewer eggs, there is less chance of fertilisation and more chance of miscarriage4. Stress can also stop you from ovulating completely and if you don’t ovulate then there is no chance fo getting pregnant 4.

It makes sense that if you’re stressed, then there is a mechanism in your body to stop you getting pregnant because it might not be safe to have a baby.

That said, we all respond differently to stress. And that’s why some women in even extremely stressful situations, like as being raped in a war zone can still get pregnant and have a baby.

How Do You Reduce Stress And Get Pregnant

There are lots of things you can do to reduce stress that will improve your chances of getting pregnant:

  1. Breathe

    One of the best ways to stop your stress response and stress hormones is to breathe. Try this exercise with me now, do it first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. First of all, find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Put your hands on your belly just below your belly button and take some deep breaths. Feel the warmth of your hands on your belly. Notice how your breath expands and contracts your belly. Focus on your breath and when you notice your mind wondering and that you’re thinking about something, then take your attention back to your breathing. Do this for just 3 breaths or for as long as 20 minutes.

  2. Do some restorative exercise like yoga, tai chi or walking

    Restorative exercise, like yoga, tai chi or walking helps you to focus breathing and move your body in a way that reduces stress, increases your energy, balances your hormones and improves your chances of getting pregnant.

  3. Create more space

    Most of us have too much on our to-do list, full schedules and not enough time. Have an honest look at your commitments and work out what you can say no to. Saying no to something or someone opens up space for you to relax and not feel like you’re rushing from one thing to the next. When you slow down your life you will feel more relaxed and this will increase your fertility.

  4. Get better quality sleep

    If you go to bed and wake up at the same time each night, this will help to set your body clock. In our society, we are overloaded, overstimulated and distracted. We can often go to bed feeling tired but wired. If you want a better night’s sleep, then have a digital sunset an hour before you go to bed, where you turn off all electrical devices.

  5. Have acupuncture, reflexology or massages

    Invest in yourself. We don’t think twice about taking our car in for a service. Do the same for your body. Acupuncture and reflexology have been proven to reduce stress, balance hormones and increase your chances of getting pregnant.

  6. Practice feeling grateful

    Think of everything that you have to be grateful for and breathe gratitude into your heart. When you’re in a state of gratitude you can’t be stressed and this will help you mentally to feel more positive as well as balancing your hormones, which will increase your fertility.

  7. Do something kind

    When you’re trying for a baby, it’s easy to feel like something is missing in your life. When we do something for others then it gives us purpose, it makes us feel good and it helps to reduce stress. Volunteer or just search for random acts of kindness that you could do each day.

  8. Do something fun and creative

    Creativity and fun are antidotes to stress. Start a new hobby and focus on having more fun. Laughter has been shown to balance hormones and improve your chances of getting pregnant.

  9. Have more sex

    Having regular sex is obviously important when you’re trying to get pregnant. Did you know that sex is also a great way to relieve stress because it produces hormones (oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins) that make you feel happy relaxed and give you pleasure.

Right now

Think about one of the suggestions above that you could do to reduce stress and create more joy in your life. Close your eyes, visualise yourself doing it. Do it this week and see how you feel.

All my best,

Rachel xx

Rachel Bolton BSc (Hons), Lic. Ac., Lic. Tui Na.

I empower women to see themselves as Fertility Heroes and help them to optimise their fertility, get pregnant and have healthy babies.  

Whenever you're ready...here are 3 ways I can help you.

1. Join the private Facebook group: Fertility Heroes. Get fertility tips, community and inspiration. Only the women in the group will know you've joined and see your posts.

2. Take the Quiz: Which Fertility Hero Are You? Discover your superpowers, kryptonite and get your 3-point fertility formula.

3. Complete the Checklist: Why Am I Not Pregnant Yet? Find out what is missing from your fertility and get a new strategy.

References

  1. Domar A., Zuttermeister P. and Friedman R. (1993). The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions. J. Psychosom. Obstet. Gynaecol. 14 (1993) special issue 45-52. Retrieved online from: Link
  2. Lynch C. D., Sundaram J.M., Maisog A. M., Sweeney G. M. Louis B. (2014). Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study – the LIFE study. Human Reproduction Vol 29, Issue 5. Retrieved online from: Link
  3. Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D.,a Kirsten J. Lum, M.S.,a Rajeshwari Sundaram, Ph.D.,a Zhen Chen, Ph.D.,a Sungduk Kim, Ph.D.,a Courtney D. Lynch, Ph.D.,b Enrique F. Schisterman, Ph.D.,a and Cecilia Pyper, B.S., M.B. (2011). Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation. Fertility and Sterility (2011) Vol. 95, No. 7. Retrieved online from: Link
  4. Fett R. (2014). It Starts With An Egg. Franklin Fox. New York.
  5. National Institutes of Health (2010). NIH study indicates stress may delay women getting pregnant. Retrieved online from: Link
  6. Schwerdfeger K. and Shreffler K. (2011) National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Vol 14, No 3. Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility for Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the Contemporary United States. Retrieved online from: Link

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