How stress may affect fertility

Gena Hymowech | February 12, 2007

LOS ANGELES — You want to become pregnant and yet, you are also stressing out about becoming pregnant. What if it doesn�t work this time�again? What if you�re simply not ready to be a mom? How will the baby change your life?

Though getting pregnant is a stress-inducing process you can�t let it make you crazy. Not only is stress not good for your general health, it may actually keep you from conceiving.

"It's becoming more and more important, in terms of what studies we do, to focus our efforts on the physiological effects of stress and how they may play a role in conception," Margareta D. Pisarska, MD�co-director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and editor-in-chief of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine News – says to WebMD.

Currently, there isn�t enough research to say it is definitely so, but many doctors think soon they – and everyone else – will see the definite role stress plays on a woman�s fertility, according to WebMD. It is clear that cortisol or epinephrine, two hormones which become high while a woman is stressed, are part of the problem, as Allen Morgan, MD, the director of the Shore Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Lakewood, New Jersey, tells WebMD. What is also abundantly clear now is that when some women�s stresses are reduced "something happens in some women that allows them to get pregnant when they couldn't get pregnant before," Morgan says to the site.

Lowering stress might also create more blood flow to the uterus, and that can make a difference with fertility, Morgan says.

Ivillage�s fertility expert Mark Perloe, MD, says there are other ways stress affects fertility. �Stress can interfere with normal function of the hypothalamus and the pituitary, glands involved in regulating ovulation. In severe situations, this may block ovulation completely.... Stress may also interfere with the immune system, which plays an important role in implantation and the body's recognition of the pregnancy,� he says on the site.

Studies are showing the very possible link between infertility and stress. In the medical journal Human Reproduction, doctors looked at how many couples got pregnant who were stressed and how many couples got pregnant who were not stressed. They discovered that conception had a better chance of happening when couples felt calm, and less of a chance of happening when they were uptight.

Fertility and IVF have been studied too. Fertility and Sterility published a study from the University of California at San Diego which said that stress might have a part in how well infertility treatments take, including in virtro fertilization.

The researcher gave women questionnaires to see how stressed they were and found that women who had the most stress ovulated 20% less eggs than women with lower stress levels. Out of those women who could make eggs, the ones who had more stress had 20% less of a chance to have successful fertilization. Not all women are affected by stress, though. "Stress may cause one set of reactions in one woman, and something else in another, so ultimately the reasons behind how or why stress impacts fertility may also be very individual," Pisarska says to the site.

Still, we can see that stress can affect fertility in some fertilizations. So how can you lower stress so that you and your partner may have a successful conception? The American Society for Reproductive Medicine offers some tips:

Communication is important, they say. It is also important to get help if you find your emotions becoming too overwhelming. You can turn to counseling, support groups and or books. These, say the organization in an American Baby article, can �help by reassuring you that you're not alone and by helping you choose between available options.� Try yoga, exercise and meditation, the ASRM suggests. And stay away from caffeine and other types of stimulants. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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