Let’s talk about stress and your fertility. In my practice one of the most common areas to address when helping women with fertility challenges is having them identify the level of stress in their lives.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Assessing stress levels
- The impact of stress on fertility
- How stress may affect ovulation
- Natural therapies to support fertility and relieve stress
Is all stress bad for us?
A certain level of stress is required in life – it helps us “get things done” and is an essential trigger for self preservation. But for so many of us higher levels of stress have become a part of life, and regularly steal time away from our much needed ‘rest and digest’ mode.
When we think of stressful times in our lives, typically what comes to mind may be ‘high stress’ events such as exams, work layoffs or a bad breakup. Although these may be occasional events, lots of other stressful things sneak up on us on a daily basis. The problem is that for most of us its not possible to walk away from what is constantly stressing us out.
Long morning commutes, traffic congestion, piles of housework or bills and even an overflowing email box can push our buttons over and over again throughout the day. Subtle stress has also been show to build up from our growing use of electronic screens, and for some of us the constant need to be updated leads to stress as well.
Check in with your own stress levels. Consider how stress may be manifesting in your life, how often and for how long. What common signs of stress show up for you? This can look different for everyone.
- How often do you feel tired or sleep deprived?
- How often are you irritable or impatient?
- How often do you just feel “out of sorts”?
- How often do you find yourself indulging in food simply for comfort or relief (or this could be wine, caffeine or sugary snacks)?
- Are you forgetting to eat? Putting off allowing for time to rest?
- If any of the above apply – how long has it been going on? Is it just a short-term situation?
How does Stress affect Fertility
Although high stress levels have not yet been conclusively proven to affect fertility, women (and their partners) who are experiencing fertility challenges certainly have been known to have higher levels of stress.
A doctor’s diagnosis of unexplained infertility or other issues that may affect fertility can increase stress levels as well, even if it is subconsciously. For women who are going through IVF, the program’s schedule of visits, tests and procedures can also raise stress to a whole new level.
Ovulation and Stress
Chronic stress levels can affect healthy ovulation by interfering with progesterone production. One of progesterone’s many functions is to maintain pregnancy. It is required to nourish the uterine lining, preparing it for the fertilized egg to implant. Progesterone and the stress hormone Cortisol are made from the same precursor hormone (pregnenolone). Although cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland, it cannot be made without pregnenolone.
When a woman’s body is in an ongoing state of chronic stress, the constant “fight or flight” signals lead to a surge in cortisol production that is often at the expensive of progesterone production. This is actually referred to as the “pregneolone steal”, where stress is usually the main thief behind the process.
Natural Therapies for Stress Relief
Improving fertility through Acupuncture and Arvigo® Therapy puts the general focus on re-storing balance and boosting circulation to the reproductive system, but I find one of the mot important side benefits of both therapies is the potential for stress relief.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can act to normalize stress levels by regulating the stress-induced increases of blood level cortisol. Acupuncture has also been linked to an increase in our body’s production of endorphins.
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® focus on restoring and balancing the flow of nourishing fluids and energy to the reproductive and digestive systems. Focusing on the lower abdomen area (the uterus and ovaries) and upper abdomen, this therapy helps to release any tension or restricted breathing. A professional Arvigo Therapy session includes a demonstration of the self care techniques. The self care aspect of this therapy gives clients the tools to practice a relaxing and beneficial technique on their own, whenever they need to.