Stress and fertility
Anyone who has struggled to conceive knows that it can be very stressful for both you and your partner.
If attending numerous appointments and having tests and investigations isn’t enough, many women believe that being stressed contributes to their fertility problems.
These are some common phrases I hear from my patients:
“I know I can’t become pregnant because I am so desperate to have a baby.”
“This is my punishment for focusing on my career for too long.”
“I was so worried about having a house before I had a baby and now my body is worn out.”
“I felt so guilty about having an abortion that my ovaries have shut down.”
“This is my fault because I can’t relax.”
Self-blame is often a natural attempt to restore a sense of control – ‘If I made myself infertile then I can fix the problem’ – but this belief infers that you are entirely responsible for not being able to conceive which is just not true.
There are many research articles discussing stress and infertility, with the general consensus being that infertility certainly causes stress but stress does not cause infertility.
Think about it, women can conceive under the most stressful circumstances. Even traumatised women and war prisoners often become pregnant if there are no physiological problems. If our reproductive systems are as vulnerable to stress as some believe, then the human species would have perished a long time ago.
Well intended family and friends will often try to help by saying things like ‘have a relaxing holiday and you will get pregnant’ – however this is just not true or helpful…unless of course a holiday provides time to have more sex which is often difficult with a busy work schedule!
Although stress doesn’t impact egg quality, it can lead to behaviours that can impact on health and fertility. For example; women may postpone child bearing, harm their fertility through smoking, drug use or drinking alcohol excessively, avoid sex, not follow instructions for fertility treatments or abandon treatment all together.
For the sake of you and your partner’s physical and emotional health, it’s important to take measures to reduce the stress you feel when trying to conceive. Here are some ways to do so:
– If you’re not completely informed about the struggles of infertility, you can sometimes feel as if you’re the problem and it’s your fault that you haven’t conceived yet. Speaking to a professional, and understanding everything that goes into conceiving, can help reduce the stress you feel and help you navigate the process.
– Struggling with infertility is an extremely emotional experience. Rather than bottling up your feelings, express them. It is normal to feel frustrated and upset during this time, so allow yourself to be sad and release those feelings. You’ll feel much better being open about things than keeping them to yourself.
– If you’re struggling to conceive naturally, it can often be beneficial to look into alternative options. Considering intrauterine insemination, IVF treatments, egg donors, or even adoption can significantly reduce your stress levels simply by knowing there are other ways for you to have a family.
– If you’re spending the majority of your time focusing on trying to conceive, the entire experience can become very stressful for you and your partner. Rather than making conceiving your sole focus, dedicate time to other things in your life. Plan fertility free days and date nights that put the focus back on the love you and your partner share.
– One of the most comforting things to know during this time in your life is that you’re not alone. Joining a support group or speaking to a counsellor can help you and your partner feel more at ease knowing that you are one of many people going through a similar experience.
I am aware of the stressful and emotional difficulties you may be going through during this process and encourage you to discuss any concerns you may have.
You may also find it helpful to organise a phone chat with Fertility Nurse Pam. Pam is a highly experienced Fertility Nurse and available to chat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pam can answer any questions you have about conceiving naturally, about a fertility or gynaecological condition you have been diagnosed with, when is the right time to book an appointment, what initial tests you may need to have, and the range of treatments available and what they entail. You can book a chat with Pam here.
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