Does Stress Affect Fertility?

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The short answer is ‘Yes’.

However, a more accurate answer is that stress affects some women’s capability to build a happy healthy family, and seems not to affect others.

You may have some friends that seem laid-back about almost everything and others who react strongly to the slightest stress. Most reactions to life stressors fall somewhere between those extremes. An article written by the Mayo Clinic states: How you react to stressors in your life is affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences. Fortunately, the article also goes on to mention that despite your genetics or bad luck you can learn to react to life’s stress in healthier ways by:

  • improving your diet
  • getting more quality sleep
  • relaxation, massage, and meditation
  • nurturing healthy friendships
  • having a sense of humor
  • counselling &/or acupuncture
  • moderate exercise

  • From a strictly traditional Chinese medical perspective it is essential to determine the precise characteristics of the presenting ‘stress’, since each requires a unique treatment protocol. Therefore it is important to define stress. Stress has become a ‘catch all’ term for any physical or mental-emotional extreme (i.e. marathons, surgery, work pressure, anxiety, depression, etc) and this raises a point which I need to be absolutely clear about: the stress associated with infertility may be one of the most profound emotional strains a woman will ever experience, and it will manifest in various ways for different women. Talking to someone during this trying time to identify specific areas of stress and its manifestations is a great way to strategize solutions.

    After going down the peer reviewed research rabbit hole in an attempt to better understand how stress affects fertility, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Stress can affect hormonal balance and ovulation.
  • Stress can affect sexual health in both men and women.
  • Stress may negatively affect IVF outcomes.
  • Stress may negatively affect the quality and quantity of sperm.
  • Stress may contribute to miscarriage by reducing blood and oxygen flow to the fetus.
  • More research needs to be done.

  • A potential problem arises with the increasing understanding of the role stress plays in infertility. In some women, stress can rise exponentially when they begin to understand that stress may affect their fertility. Fortunately, in my clinical experience, this knowledge is often the motivation required to dig deep and begin making empowered choices that facilitate change, and to do what is necessary to persevere on the journey toward family.

    The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends acupuncture for infertility stress reduction (click to read ASRM infertility stress fact sheet).

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