Stress & Trying to Conceive: Can Stress Keep You From Getting Pregnant?

We live in stressful times, and the way we deal with it can have a profound impact on many areas of life. While research does suggest a link between stress and problems conceiving, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine there is no clinical proof that stress causes infertility. Most likely, the relationship between them is a vicious cycle: if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, that will undoubtedly create stress, which can lead to depression and unhealthy behavior, which can then result in more fertility problems.

Stress & Trying to Conceive – A Hormonal Connection?

When you’re experiencing stress, your body feels the pressure physically as much as emotionally. This causes many internal organs to work harder than normal and can put chemical production in your body on overdrive, even effecting hormone output. In some women, this might interfere with the normal ovulation cycle, temporarily delaying or even inhibiting egg release – which can negatively impact their ability to conceive. (Also, in rare cases extreme stress has been linked to testosterone levels and reduced sperm production in men.) Excessive stress can even result in suppression of a woman’s menstrual period. But menstruation and ovulation can sometimes be affected by a number of outside factors – diet, travel, illness, etc. – so if you’re worried about a potential stress-related impact on ovulation, use an ovulation calendar or calculator to track your own cycle. Some research done on women undergoing in vitro fertilization suggests that stress can also have an effect on egg implantation in the uterus, but this is not a definitively proven conclusion.

Stress & Trying to Conceive – Sex and Stress

If you’re under a lot of stress, there’s a good chance that your sex drive is going to be negatively affected. And if you’re not interested in having sex, that will of course limit your ability to conceive. On the other hand, sex can be a healthy stress reliever, so some quality intimate time with your partner could be just what’s needed to break the cycle. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you might need to make a conscious effort to include sex in your daily schedule – but don’t be overly self-conscious and let those efforts add even more stress to the pile! Instead of reaching for a glass of wine or a sleeping pill at the end of a trying day, how about reaching for your partner? Be sure to turn off your computer, pager, cell phone and all other potential stress-provoking distractions. But if you’re both just too tired and worn out, don’t force the issue. Set the alarm a little earlier for tomorrow – skip your morning visit to the gym and start your day with a different kind of exercise.

Stress & Trying to Conceive – What You Can Do

Even if reducing stress doesn’t have a direct effect on getting pregnant, cutting back on stress will certainly help you feel better about your life and put you in a better frame of mind. Take a look at your eating and drinking habits to see how unhealthy behavior and lifestyle choices may be contributing to stress. Cut down on caffeine and other stimulants, including high carb junk food and sugary sweets. Limit your alcohol intake. Make sure to set aside enough time for a good night’s sleep. Take a break from work or housework and go outside for a brisk, mind-clearing walk. Get regular exercise, and also consider adding yoga, deep breathing or meditation to your routine. If you can’t get a handle on your stress yourself, consider talking with a therapist.

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