What Does Stress Have to Do with Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a successful pregnancy to full term after one full year of consecutively trying. Many couples struggle with infertility, which may be the result of male factors, female factors, or a combination of both. This article will take a closer look at the relationship between stress and infertility in women.

What Causes Stress? Stress refers to a sympathetic nerve system response within our bodies to a certain event. As we react to outside stressors, our bodies produce larger quantities of three chemicals, including cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline—all of which lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, a heightened state of alertness, and decreased immune function.

How Does Stress Impact Conception? Research has shown that women struggling with infertility experience the same levels of stress as women diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or AIDS. In a study published by the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, women who stopped using contraceptives had higher saliva levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase, which is a biological indicator of stress. The study also showed that women with the highest concentrations of this enzyme were 12 percent less likely to become pregnant than women with lower levels of alpha-amylase. These studies not only indicate that infertility is a direct cause of stress, but also that stress can delay conception and make it more difficult for healthy women to achieve pregnancy.

What Treatments Are Available? Women who struggle to achieve pregnancy due to stress have a number of solutions at their disposal, including addressing their mind and body connection through the use of meditation, yoga, or acupuncture, and other lifestyle changes.

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