What exactly is the connection between stress and infertility? Infertility can be stressful for any couple, but a growing body of evidence is suggesting that this can be a bit of a two-way street. Let’s look at what science says on the links between stress, mental health and fertility.
Stress and infertility: Is there a link?
A part of the brain called the hypothalamus is in charge of controlling the release reproductive hormones. When you’re stressed, the hypothalamus puts the secretion of reproductive hormones on the backburner. This change in hormone balance can have a negative impact on ovulation and menstrual cycle, and therefore on fertility.
The stress response doesn’t just affect the female reproductive system – in fact, stress is thought to be a major cause of poor sperm quality in men. When male reproductive hormones drop, so does libido and sperm count, and the sperm cells’ motility (ie. swimming skills) is also affected.
Tips for improving stress and fertility
When you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important to take a look at your lifestyle. Ideally, you’d be able to identify what factors are putting stress on your body and mind, but that’s easier said than done! Here’s some of what you and your partner can look at when you’re trying to get pregnant.
Get enough sleep
If you’ve got a less-than-ideal sleep cycle – think staying up late, not sleeping enough, or trying to catch up sleep debt on the weekends – it can take a toll on your nerves. This can leave you feeling worn out and irritable, so try to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night. You can take a positive step for your mental health by developing a healthy sleep schedule, and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Communicate with your partner
It’s good to be open about stress with your partner – after all, open communication is one of the hallmarks of a strong relationship. Knowing that your partner is there for you can take a load off your mind, and you can do the same for him or her, so make time to discuss and acknowledge each other’s needs and any problems you’re having.
Think about how you can improve each others’ day by sharing affection and showing your appreciation for each other. You could also think about taking trips together, or revive Date Nights for a long-term relationship. Little things can go a long way when it comes to relationships!
Have a good soak in the bath
If you’re used to just a quick shower in the evening, think about taking a warm bath instead. A hot bath at around 100℉ to 104℉ (38℃ to 40℃) can relax tired muscles and improve circulation around your body, leaving you feel refreshed. Try to set aside 10 or 15 minutes where you won’t be distracted – this could do a lot to relieve stress!
Get some moderate exercise
Exercise doesn’t just keep your body in shape! Your brain releases stress-busting endorphins when you move around enough to work up a sweat, meaning exercise is a great step to take for your mental health. It also helps your circulation. If you’re not used to exercising, consider starting with low-impact exercises like stretching or yoga. These two are great options for aspiring moms, as you can get yourself used to the maternity exercise classes pregnant moms often enjoy at the gym.
Watch movies or listen to music with your partner
With all the streaming services available these days, it’s easier than ever to chill out with music or movies. See what looks interesting or look for some nostalgic favorites you and your partner can enjoy together – it’s a great way to unwind.
Stop trying to get pregnant for a bit
If you and your partner are putting a lot of effort into trying to conceive but getting nowhere fast, it’s only natural to start feeling stressed. If this happens, try taking a step back for a bit: take some time to enjoy your hobbies, take it easy and enjoy each other’s company.
Stress and fertility are deeply linked
Whether it’s from work, study, or just the pressures of life in general, it’s hard to eliminate all the sources of stress. What’s important for your physical and mental health is that you can identify when you’re feeling stressed, and come up with some stress-relief strategies that suit your personality and needs. If you feel like you need some more support to get on top of stress, consider speaking to a doctor or therapist. Most of all, remember to take it easy now and then – you deserve to feel good!