6 Sneaky Ways Stress Can Prevent Conception


What is stress?

Stress has become a major buzzword but has the meaning of it been lost? Many have only come to associate it with emotional distress. To understand how and why stress is influencing your body and how it can contribute to infertility, it is important to get back to basics of what stress actually is.

Stress from a healthcare perspective is describing a response. It is a response to the change in demand or an increase of demand on the body or mind from a normal, balanced state. The resulting effects can be on your body, mood or even behavior. A stressor is the thing that initiated the response. An increase or change of demand on the body/mind can be perceived as positive or negative depending on the stressor and the circumstances it is happening in, but either way, it causes a reaction.

You can't "Just Relax".

The stress response is an automatic reaction and you can't just shut it off, take it easy and not worry so much.

Every human comes in contact with stressors so every human experiences stress. The difference is how your body/mind processes this response and how long it has to be in that state. The fight-or-flight response doesn’t just kick in if a bear is chasing you. The body can react dramatically to non-life threatening situations too. Dreading taking the subway at rush hour every day for work, traveling, consistent poor diet laden with damp foods, your environment and excessive exercise are just a few things that can cause stress on the body; taking the focus away from the reproductive system. If your body is in a chronic state of reacting, it may choose to protect you. Remember that we humans are animals. Not getting pregnant and having a baby in a situation that our body is telling us that something is off is a survival mechanism. When stress is long term, your body has to find new ways to operate and it might not operate in the way you would expect or want.

Stress and Infertility

While there are many factors that contribute to infertility, identifying and addressing stress cannot be ignored. While you can't just stop the stress response, you can learn what kinds of things trigger it in your body and manage them. Usually people have multiple sources of stress and many don’t even realize what their stressors are as it might not be emotional culprits like family, work or money concerns. Remember that stress on your body does not necessarily mean emotional distress is the stressor. We do recommend addressing negative emotions to help and assist in shifting the body from stress response to relaxation response. If your body systems are out of balance, your body is stressed. When under a constant state of stress for a long period, it may become your feeling of “normal”. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for infertility help reduce stress, restore the systems that have become out of balance and bring back focus to the reproductive system.

"Victor Brave/Shutterstock.com"

"Victor Brave/Shutterstock.com"

Here are 6 ways stress can prevent conception:

  1. Stress affects ovulation. Stress can cause a domino effect by the way it disrupts the hypothalamus from sending the right hormone to the pituitary which then may prevent the release of the correct hormones to the ovaries for ovulation. Stress can change when an egg is released or prevent an egg from being released at all.

  2. Stress increases cortisol levels.When under stress your body produces extra adrenaline and cortisol. The problem is that progesterone is needed to make cortisol. Instead of progesterone being available to support conception and pregnancy, it is essentially stolen by the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Your body may prioritize stress over pregnancy.

  3. Stress affects testosterone levels. It has been shown that elevated levels of cortisol can lower testosterone levels. Stress may also cause you to eat more, sleep less and experience emotions of depression, anger or anxiety which all compound and further affect hormones in the body.

  4. Stress can alter sperm count and motility.The pathway or reason why stress can change sperm production or sperm health is not clear but studies are trying to understand why subjective and objective stress is indeed causing an issue. One possibility is the release of a steroid called glucocorticoids and another may have to do with how your body deals with the free radicals that are produced and the body’s ability to counteract them.

  5. Stress can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.This is also an issue that should be addressed for embryo implantation when undergoing IVF and IUI procedures. Stress can affect hormones that reduce blood flow to the uterus and endometrial lining making it less receptive to implantation.

  6. Stress can create spasms in the fallopian tubes and the uterus.In response to stress, your body may produce hormones that can increase muscle tension and result in a temporary blockage of the fallopian tubes and cramping in the uterus.

Reduce Stress and Improve Fertility

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture, prepares the body and mind of both women and men to conceive. No matter how egg and sperm are joining, all participants should address their fertility. Traditional Chinese Medicine can provide a different insight to unexplained infertility. It contributes to many positive factors that help people conceive through natural and assisted methods such as IVF and has shown to increase success rates through live birth.

TCM works on the principle of cycles and homeostasis just like your body. Egg and sperm quality today is the reflection of your health 3 months ago. Past diet, nutritional status, blood oxygen, hormonal levels, even your emotions can impact your current fertility state. Fertility is fluid and where you are falling in the spectrum may be due to imbalances beyond what typical investigative tests show. We recommend giving yourself, your body and mind, the opportunity to prepare for 90 days prior to conceiving naturally or with Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF and IUI.

When TCM is provided by a practitioner that specializes in fertility, and is properly trained and licensed, you can learn to breathe differently, eat differently, express your emotions honestly and rid your body of the negative effects of the stress response. Your body’s attention can be brought back to your reproductive organs in which many cases have been starved of circulation. Here are a few ways TCM contributes to positive fertility factors:

  • Increased egg quality

  • Improved blood flow to the uterus and uterine lining

  • Decrease of blockages such as polyps and cysts that may prevent the process of egg and sperm meeting to create an embryo

  • Decrease in spasms of the fallopian tubes and uterus which may cause temporary blockages and impede implantation

  • Improves blood flow for placenta growth

  • Improves sperm morphology, motility and count

  • Restores energetic balance in the mind/body to help create a calm environment for a healthy pregnancy and birth

  • Reduces stress response by acting on the nervous system and circulatory system

Garden Acupuncture Fertility Specialty:

Learn more about TCM and Acupuncture for Infertility

Learn more about Acupuncture for conditions impacting the reproductive system.