Studies on women experiencing stress also produced similar results. A study involving 151 women undergoing IVF and GIFT procedures, found that those women who were excessively anxious had more reproductive problems.
The women who reported the most stress and anxiety had 20% fewer eggs retrieved during treatments. They also had 19% fewer fertilized eggs than their less-stressed counterparts.
Why Would Stress Cause Infertility?
There are a number of theories as to why stress could affect male and female fertility. One such theory relies upon the fact that the body’s stress responses and sex hormones are regulated by the same system in the brain. When stress levels increase, they could inadvertently affect the amount of sex hormones released into the body. This could significantly affect ovulation and menstruation, as well as sperm count.
It is also theorized that stress is more likely to cause us to adapt unhealthy habits. If you are experiencing extreme stress, you are more likely to:
- take drugs
- eat a poor diet
- exercise less
- sleep poorly
All of these factors can have a detrimental effect on the reproductive system and overall fertility levels.
Does Infertility Cause Stress?
While researchers are still debating whether or not stress really can contribute to infertility, it is a well-established fact that infertility definitely causes stress. In fact, women undergoing fertility treatments were found to have stress levels that were equal to or greater than women facing life-threatening illnesses. This stress can be compounded by things including:
- invasive medical treatments
- rising medical costs
- range of emotions brought out by infertility
Reducing Your Stress Levels
Whether or not your infertility is actually caused by stress, it is imperative to work to lower your stress levels when going through fertility treatment. By engaging in stress relief, you can help to support your partner better and address your own needs. You may even be able to improve your fertility. Here are some stress reduction tips to try out:
- Alter Stressors: You can help to reduce the stress in your life by altering your stressors. Eliminate those extra responsibilities that you just can’t do. Ask for help when trying to complete a task. And avoid situations that you know are stressful.
- Improve Communication: Fertility treatment can be very stressful on any couple, and often the lines of communication become a little fuzzy. Work on sharing your feelings openly with your partner and listen to his needs too.
- Identify your Needs: Be sure to take time to identify and address your own needs. Write down what you need to do for yourself everyday, and make sure you take time to do it.
- Get Support: Many couples who are dealing with infertility feel utterly alone, and this can be very stressful. It is important to realize that you are not alone in your struggle and that there are people available to help you. Check out local support groups or visit with a social worker or therapist to help you deal with your infertility diagnosis.