How Stress Impacts Fertility and How to Reduce it - %

How Stress Impacts Fertility and How to Reduce it

How Stress Impacts Fertility and How to Reduce it

How Stress Impacts Fertility

We are living in an increasingly busy lives in a busy world where so many of us are constantly stressed and this stress negatively impacts fertility.

Technology means that we are connected 24 hours a day. We are constantly switched on to checking our phones, using technology all day and very often up until we get into bed. It can be very difficult to switch off.

Stress seems to be the new norm 

You see the problem with stress, as I found out, is that it easily creeps in and can become your normal default way of living. You can stop being aware that it’s not normal. And isn’t everyone stressed these days?

Do you recognise any of these?

When you are on holiday are you still checking your emails regularly just in case you miss something?

I remember a time, not so long ago, when it was impossible for me to sit for more than a small handful of minutes doing nothing?  Is this a problem for you? I used to think that doing nothing was such a waste of my time. Do you think that?

How often do you use these phrases?

I’m up against it

I’m snowed under

I’m in deadline hell – and if you are really honest is that I’m in deadline heaven?

Do you find yourself sharing with people how overworked you are?

Telling people that you had 5 meetings in the day, then an evening event to attend and a report to finish for tomorrow, which meant I just got three hours sleep.

Are you finding that you don’t sleep very well or have difficulty switching off and falling asleep?

If you are living a stressful life, you are putting your whole body under pressure and that does not create the best circumstances for conceiving.

I know all about stress

You see I know all about stress. For most of my life, up until about 10 years ago I was constantly stressed, working all the hours gods’ sends and looking after everyone else, but not me. I never slept well and I found it incredibly difficult to switch off and relax. I always had to be doing. Initially I had a successful corporate marketing career and then I started my own business, whilst I was a single parent. This all led ultimately to me having a big wake-up call. You see,  I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease 10 years ago and was told by my doctor in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t ever recover and I would be on medication for the rest of my life.

I wasn’t willing to accept that prognosis, because I didn’t want to feel as bad as I did at that time for the rest of my life. I am truly grateful for that illness, because it made me make some big decisions in my life.

Here’s how I was able to recover

In order to recover I needed to make big life changing decisions.  The first one was to get a proper work-life balance, secondly, I took time out to heal myself and thirdly, I made a commitment to do everything I could to get myself well again and that resulted in me doing a lot of research into how I could get myself well again. I succeeded on all fronts and by 8 years ago I was fully recovered.

On that journey to recovery, I learnt a lot about stress and its impact on the body and mind.   I had to learn to put myself first. Something that I feel is difficult for so many women. We have a tendency to focus on looking after everyone else. I had to start taking good care of my body and my mind in order to break that stressful life pattern.

So I expect you might be asking what has this got to do with me and fertility?

Here’s how stress negatively impacts fertility

Stress in itself, when it is intermittent, and where you are just responding to a particular situation and then you relax back into normal mode is OK. That kind of stress response can be helpful. The problem arises when you are constantly stressed and your body is constantly switched on.

When you are stressed what happens in your body?

If you’re are stressed and feeling anxious, your nervous system releases stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones manifest in things like increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and high blood pressure. People experience stress in other ways, too, such as sadness, irritability, insomnia and headaches.

When the fight or flight response gets triggered, any system that isn’t necessary for survival shuts down, including your reproductive system. This is why your period can be late when you’re experiencing high levels of stress for an extended period of time. Stress also has a negative impact on our gut health, and you can read all about how gut health affects fertility here.

Stress and overwhelm vastly depletes the body of nutrients – zinc and magnesium, B vitamins and a lack of these affects the functioning of key organs in the body and this will have a negative impact on your fertility.

If you are a cave woman being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger and you are running for your life your body isn’t going to say. Yes, this is the ideal time for us to conceive and support a baby. All the body’s resources are needed to provide energy for you to run fast enough and keep going so that you can escape and live to see another day. In today’s world, many of us are actually running away from that tiger constantly.

Research Shows that Stress Impacts Fertility

The science backing up the relationship between stress and fertility is fairly robust. It shows how it negatively impacts your fertility.

Here’s a timeline of some of the most relevant research:

In a small study by Berga published in 2003, seven out of eight participants who received stress management therapy began ovulating again versus two out of eight who got no intervention.

A 2009 study indicated that women with high amounts of stressful life events that negatively impact her quality of life may have less favorable IVF outcomes.

A study conducted by Oxford University and the National Institutes of Health in 2010 indicates that the 25% of women with highest levels of alpha-amylase, a substance that’s secreted into the saliva and has been linked to stress response, have more trouble conceiving than women with lower alpha-amylase. “The study results suggest that finding safe ways to alleviate stress may play a role in helping couples become pregnant,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., director of the NICHD.

In October 2018, a new study from Boston University’s School of Public Health found that women who experienced higher levels of stress had lower rates of conception, but men who experienced the same levels did not.

Stress can negatively affect our relationships

Stress can also affect our relationships. If you are constantly stressed it will have an impact on not only your desire for having sex.  It could also have a negative impact on your relationship with your partner.

You might become less patient and become increasingly snappy with him. You might be having more arguments about those silly things. This all creates stress in your body. Something you really want to avoid. At a time when you both are wanting to have a baby, you really want to be having a nice level of harmony between you.

You are also more likely to want to drink alcohol and caffeine, as well as the wrong foods, when you are stressed. Neither of which are helpful in boosting fertility.

Steps you can take to manage your stress

One of the key things that will make it easier for you to start making changes is to decide that you need to make reducing stress a priority in your life.

It will also help to understand that whilst you can’t always control the circumstances in your life, you can choose how you respond to those circumstances. You can then take steps to reduce the negative impact of stress on your fertility.

How do you feel when you are not in control of everything?

Here are some key tips for stress reduction

1. Regular Exercise

Have a regular exercise routine for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Do something you love and you will be more likely to stick to it.

2. Meditation

this is a really powerful way to reduce the stress in your body. Do it for 10 – 15 minutes every day. Meditation is scientifically proven to have a big affect on your physiology and it actually has big benefits for your brain. It nurtures the parts of the brain that contribute to well being.  The amygdala – the reptilian part of our brains that produces feelings of anxiety, fear and general stress shrinks when you meditate regularly.

3. Forest Bathing

Getting out into nature has huge benefits.  It reduces blood pressure, lowers heart rate, and decreases cortisol levels. When we are outside our body slows down, helping us feel peaceful and calm. It also helps to boost your immune system.

Our minds work in a similar way. Spending time outside improves mood and reduces feelings of anxiety. We can focus better in nature, and our improved concentration can help us address feelings of stress and anxiety.

Self-esteem can also receive a boost after time spent wandering outdoors. Peace and mental clarity is a big reason why being outside is important.

4. Deep Breathing

Practice deep breathing from your belly on a regular basis throughout the day.

5. Practice Yoga

Yoga is great for stress relief and is also good for the body and the mind.  It is a great way for you to prepare your body for pregnancy and you can continue through pregnancy too.

6. Do something creative

Things like colouring and painting are a form of meditation and have positive benefits on your wellbeing.

7. Have more sex

Yes, sexual intercourse is good for relieving stress and having more sex increases the chance of conception so it’s a win/win all round.

8. Journaling

Taking some time each day to write down in a journal how you are feeling can also help to reduce stress. Buy yourself a pretty note book that you specifically use to write in for this purpose.

 

9. Ask for Help

All to often we feel that we have to figure everything out for ourselves, but that in itself can cause stress. You might feel like you are failure if you have to ask for help. The truth is the opposite. When you have support it just makes life so much easier.

10. Eat a Healthy diet

When you are eating a healthy diet of natural unprocessed foods it will also help your body to manage stress.

Making significant lifestyle changes to reduce stress levels can feel daunting and often overwhelming. You might feel that you just don’t know where to start.

If you feel you would like support on this and how to boost your fertility you can book a Fertility Focus call with me

 

10 Surprising Things that will Boost your Fertility

10 Surprising Things that will Boost your Fertility

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