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Stress and Your Fertility

Stress and Your Fertility

In today’s modern, fast-paced society, it is easy for people to become stressed. In fact, one would almost think that being stressed is the “in” thing, and if you aren’t stressed it must mean there is something wrong with you! Realistically however, stress is not a good thing for our bodies in general, and has a very real impact on your fertility.

Can Stress Have an Effect on Your Fertility?

Believe it or not, our bodies are equipped to prevent conception from occurring during times of extreme stress. The presence of adrenaline, the hormone that is released by our bodies during stressful times, signals to our body that conditions are not ideal for conception. Adrenaline inhibits us from utilizing the hormone progesterone, which is essential for fertility. It also causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which also causes infertility to occur.

How Stress Impacts Fertility
CB060658Recent research tells us that stress boosts levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, catecholamines, and cortisol, which can inhibit the release of the body’s main hormone, GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone), which is responsible for the release of sex hormones. Subsequently, this may suppress ovulation in women, reduce sperm count in men and lower libido in both women and men.

‘”We know stress affects the top-tier reproductive hormone, GnRH, but we show, in fact, that stress also affects another high-level hormone, GnIH*, to cause reproductive dysfunction,” said lead author Elizabeth Kirby, a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.’

A general example of the importance of GnRH in fertility is this: Manufactured by the hypothalamus, GnRH is responsible for signaling the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland, which then stimulates the gonads (ovaries in women, testes in men) to release sex hormones (estrogens and androgens). The levels of sex hormones rise, and once a certain level is achieved, become part of a negative feedback loop (negative feedback inhibition) which signals the suppression of LH.

Any disruption to GnRH may cause insufficient release of hormones from the pituitary gland which can cause their target organs to no longer work as they once did, and in extreme cases, atrophy over time and no longer function.

Chronic stress may cause lack of libido as well as a decrease in general fertility. This has become such a common issue that they have created a name for it: Stress Induced Reproductive Dysfunction.

These facts are very important to consider if you have been trying to conceive with no results. It also shows that stress relief should be a part of every couple’s conception plan even if they are going through IVF.

Trying to carry a pregnancy to term during stressful times places the fetus at risk. The body knows this, which is why it creates an environment that is basically inhospitable to conception. Generally, a stressed person is an unhealthy person. People living with a high stress level are typically overly tired and filled with nervous tension, which may cause them to choose poor dietary and lifestyle habits.

*GnIH (gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone) directly inhibits GnRH.

Reducing Stress for Fertility

In you are having difficulty conceiving, stress may very well be a factor. If you have had fertility tests performed and have found that there is no medical reason for your infertility, it is time to evaluate your life and determine how much stress you have. Of course, you may not even have need for an evaluation. You may know you are stressed. In that case, it is time to start defeating that stress to help your fertility.

How to Reduce the Effect of Stress on Your Fertility

1. Reduce the stress in your life. This of course is obvious, as well as easier said than done. Reducing the stress in your life is so important on many different levels. It will not only help your fertility and health but also your quality of life. If your job is really stressful, maybe begin to look for a different job or occupation. If that is not possible, some of the tips below will help you to deal with your stress differently than how you currently are.

2. Change how you react to stressful situations. When faced with an ongoing stressful situation, there is only one thing you have control over… how you react. Pay attention to how you react to the stressful people at work, or to your stressful situation. Do you turn it over in your head all night long; do you create scary future visions of what could happen? Getting control of how you react will have a big impact on what happens inside of your body when a stressful situation presents itself. This takes some attention and practice.

3. Have a practice or habit that helps you to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions of practices or daily habits that help reduce the effects of stress on your health.

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep
  • Get an adequate amount of healthy exercise daily
  • Meditate
  • Start practicing Yoga
  • Seek counseling
  • Consume natural, calming herbs and supplements
  • Acupuncture
  • Prayer
  • Reading a book in the park
  • Journal
  • Take warm baths
  • Surrender and let go

Fertility Meditation: Blue Sky Mind

4. Herbs help with stress.
Chronic stress may cause hormonal imbalance, lowered egg and sperm health, as well as create a lack of libido. Herbs that support a healthy stress response, nourish the nervous system, and support endocrine function are good choices.

Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera)
Both a nervine and adaptogen, Ashwagandha, works to re-regulate thyroid and adrenal gland function, as well as, supports overall endocrine system function for improved stress response and hormonal balance. According to Ayurvedic herbalist K.P. Khalsa, Ashwagandha works better than the medication Valium for treating anxiety. Learn more here…

Bee Pollen/Propolis
Bee pollen has been reported to have great results in boosting immunity and fertility. Bee propolis has been found to support healthy immune function, inflammation, and stress response in the body. Learn more here…

Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita)
This herb is a nervine and mild sedative which may help to reduce stress, relax the nervous system, and induce a restful state in the body.

Eluthero root and stem bark(Elueutherococcus senticosus)
Also known as Siberian Ginseng, Eluthero root/bark strengthens the immune system and is great for people under severe stress. This herb helps people to feel better, perform better, and recover from immune suppression more quickly.

Fo-ti, also known as Ho Shou Wu, root (Polygonum multiflorum)
According to TCM, Fo-ti root helps to restore jing (life essence). It has also been found to be supportive of both thyroid and adrenal function, which are highly sensitive to stress and are extremely important to fertility health. The vine and leaf are sometimes used to aid stress, nervous tension, and insomnia. Learn more here…

Lemon Balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm provides excellent nervous system support. It supports a healthy stress response and lessens depression and anxiety. Good emotional health and a healthy stress response is important prior to conception. This herb is not intended for use in people dealing with hypothyroidism.

Linden flower and bract (Tilia platyphyllos, T.cordata)
This herb mildly lowers blood pressure, reduces depression, and supports nervous system function. It is great for anxiety, depression and insomnia, and is considered very gentle and safe.

Maca root (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is a nourishing food for the endocrine system, aiding the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands (all involved in hormonal balance.) It is also supportive of both immune and stress responses in the body. Learn more here…

Motherwort aerial parts (Leonurus cardiaca)
Famous herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) said, “There is no better herb to drive away melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful.” Motherwort supports heart health and aids in the reduction of anxiety. Learn more here…

Schisandra, fruit and seed (Schisandra chinensis)
Schisandra acts as an adaptogen, as well as supports healthy hormonal balance through endocrine system support. Additionally, it promotes proper immune and stress responses.

Shatavari root (Asparagus racemosus)
Not only does this herb support healthy fertility, it is an immune system and nutritive tonic. Shatavari also supports overall immune system function. Learn more here…

5. Books that have helped me transform stress. I used to go through a lot of stress. While I still experience stressful things in my life I have learned from others how to live in peace despite outside circumstances. One of the places I have learned this peace is through books. There are a couple of books that have made a huge difference in how I react to stressful situations.

Both a nervine and adaptogen, Ashwagandha, works to re-regulate thyroid and adrenal gland function, as well as, supports overall endocrine system function for improved stress response and hormonal balance. According to Ayurvedic herbalist K.P. Khalsa, Ashwagandha works better than the medication Valium for treating anxiety

In an effort to reduce and remove stress from your life to achieve healthy fertility, it is important that you try to avoid harsh chemical medications that are prescribed to help individuals become less stressed. These medications merely mask the stressful feelings you are experiencing, and do nothing to help the situation. Additionally, some of these medications can cause infertility themselves, or have a negative effect on your fetus if you do happen to become pregnant.

There are many ways that a person can combat stress in an effort to increase their fertility. Stress is a powerful component in a person’s life and can quickly run the body down. While some stress is completely natural and expected, too much stress will cause the body to go into survival mode so that your system can continue to function. Part of this survival mode is making sure you do not become pregnant. If pregnancy is your ultimate goal, you will need to find some way to get rid of the stress safely and naturally.

6. Use EFT to help you. Trying to conceive can be tiring both physically and mentally. It affects your spirit, mind, and body. I would like to introduce you to a helpful and easy technique based on ancient Chinese medicine. In theory, it is very similar to acupuncture. The theory behind this technique is that, when a person’s emotions are tightly wound up, it affects their physiological condition. Therefore, by relieving the stress and freeing up the emotions, a change is brought about in the physiological condition of a person, hopefully helping her/him to improve their reproductive health and go on to conceive.

This technique is wonderful because it addresses both fertility and stress reduction at the same time. EFT is also a highly effective technique at removing psychological blocks to conception. Past traumas, memories, beliefs about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, can all affect how you truly feel about having a baby. You may feel ready to be a parent, but are there any hidden blocks that are stopping you from conceiving? EFT can help you to identify these blocks and provides the tools to help you move towards resolving these blocks in order to help you achieve your goal of having a baby.

Several research databases and professional organizations- 23 randomized controlled trials and 17 within-subjects studies- were searched by Independent Researcher Dawson Church of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare and findings of studies showed “Clinical EFT has met APA standards as an “efficacious” or “probably efficacious” treatment for a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD.”

You can learn more about EFT for Fertility here…

relax. breathe. peace.

Overcome Stress to Boost Fertility

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Great Informational Blog. I really like it. Keep it up.

  2. Avatar

    You have a bunch of GREAT info here! Another great herb is Reishi mushrooms – too many benefits to list – see reviews on products, some people get nearly fanatical over it.

  3. Avatar

    I have not seen my period for about 5 months. I am so worried. I have never used any pills before. What can I do to get my period back or what kit should I buy that will help me?

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for this article. I want to ask if Pituitary myoma is also caused by stress and what kind of herbs can be suggested to shrink the tumor instead of suggery or harmful medications.

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Dear Mercy,
      I can not speak to the cause of a Pituitary myoma, nor is it our focus/scope of practice to guide you in taking herbs to shrink a tumor. This is a better question to ask of your healthcare provider, or a naturopathic doctor.
      What I can say is that stress causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which also causes infertility to occur. Stress “stresses” the pituitary gland and I can imagine a myoma does as well. An improperly functioning pituitary gland can negatively impact fertility.

  5. Avatar

    thanks 4 your wonderful encouragement

  6. Avatar

    Thank You very mach it was amazing 🙂