Could stress be affecting your fertility? If you are trying for a baby, it's a naturally stressful time, but getting stressed out could be affecting your chances of conceiving.
Read our advice below and our top 5 tips to de-stress and unwind.
“Work, money worries, caring for an elderly or sick relative or the death of a loved one can all be incredibly stressful and difficult to deal with,” says Tim Child, Medical Director of Oxford Fertility, part of the Fertility Partnership (www.oxfordfertilityunit.com).
“How that stress affects a man or woman’s ability to create a baby is a tricky one. There have been many studies - some quite unreliable because stress is so difficult to measure - which have looked into this.”
Evidence, he says, suggests that for those couples just starting to try for a baby, stress at work or in the home isn’t a huge factor in their ability to conceive. However, the longer they try the more upset and anxious they can become at not conceiving and this can cause stress levels to rocket.
“Feelings of loss, grief, anger and sadness at failing to get pregnant can lead to prolonged feelings of anxiety and even depression. That can result in a deterioration in a couple’s relationship, their sex life dwindling – which clearly has an impact on conception – and even, in rare cases, a woman missing a period because stress chemicals released in her brain interfere with the hormones that lead to ovulation and menstruation,” Mr Child explains.
In fact those stress chemicals – namely cortisol and adrenalin – are the subject of new fertility studies on Oxidative Stress – the body’s reaction to stress.
“It seems these stress chemicals don’t effect sperm production however they might effect sperm function – how well sperm moves and travels. And they could effect the lining of the womb and the way in which a woman’s body accepts embryo implantation.”
It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal for many couples to take up to a year to conceive but if you are struggling – particularly if you have embarked on fertility treatment – talking about what stresses you are under and how you feel with each other or a professional counsellor could be key.
Earlier this year the British Medical Journal reported a study of couples going through fertility treatment. Those who received a specific type of counselling called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) stood a much greater chance of conceiving. So talk it out!
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5 tips to de-stress and unwind
- Try to keep the lines of communication open and if you need help to do that, don’t be afraid to ask. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (www.bacp.co.uk) can help you find a professional to talk to. If you are undergoing fertility treatment you will have access to a counsellor at the unit you are registered under
- Bin ovulation predictor kits. They can actually increase stress levels, take the spontaneity out of lovemaking and put pressure on a relationship – and are not always accurate anyway. Instead have sex twice a week. Sperm and eggs stay active for 2-3 days leaving plenty of time for conception
- Consider alternative therapies. Some people find acupuncture, homeopathy or massage very relaxing
- If there’s a hobby you’ve been meaning to get back to/try out do it now! Having another focus takes the pressure off
- Aim to have at least one day or evening a week where you make time for one another and ban all baby talk. Concentrate on what’s important – you and your partner, why you enjoy one another’s company and what brought you together in the first place.