Stress and Infertility
If you and your partner are having trouble conceiving, you may be wondering exactly what is going on. There are a number of diagnostic tests that your health care provider can perform which may be able to pinpoint specific reproductive problems. However, more often than not, health care providers are unable to determine a cause for infertility. This can lead many people to try to find alternative causes for their infertility, such as stress. There has long been a debate about the relationship between stress and infertility. Certainly, infertility has been known to cause a lot of stress, but can stress actually contribute to infertility? Here is some of the latest information on the relationship between stress and infertility.
What is Stress?
Stress is typically defined as any event or occurrence that you believe to be threatening or upsetting. This may include traumatic events such as divorce, illness, or a death in the family, or it could be a more minor event, like a fight with a friend or an incident at work. In order to help signal you to these stressful events, your body is equipped to perform a number of complex actions:
- Your body releases a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).
- This CRF activates the system in your brain known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (HPA).
- The HPA system releases various chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) into the body, including the stress hormone cortisol.
- Your body begins to experience a number of symptoms of stress which may include sweating, shaking, increased breathing, and elevation in heart rate.
Everyone, no matter what their age or sex, experiences some sort of stress on a daily basis.
Can Stress Causes Infertility?
Because of the complex nature of the body’s stress reactions, it has often been theorized that perhaps chronic states of stress could impact upon various aspects of the reproductive system. There is ongoing research examining the effects of different types of stress (both physical and emotional) on both male and female fertility. Many of these studies have produced startling results.
One study evaluated the sperm counts of prisoners awaiting execution. This study revealed that every prisoner participating in the study had some type of sperm deficiency, ranging from poor sperm count to impaired sperm motility and morphology. Another study evaluated the sperm production of monkeys who were chronically stressed. These monkeys all produced lower-than-expected amounts of sperm with poor sperm concentration.