Anyone who has struggled with infertility will tell you this: It can be quite the roller-coaster ride. "The hardest thing for us was not having answers," says one woman, now 38. She and her 45-year-old husband were derailed for several years while doctors tried to figure out the cause of their infertility.
Unlike this couple, about 80% to 85% of U.S. couples are able to get pregnant after a year of trying. When you get past the year mark, however, it's time to seek help. If you're over age 35, it's...
"You've got to calm down and let nature take its course."
If you've been trying six months or more to get pregnant, you've probably
lost count of the number of times well-meaning friends and family offered this
or similar advice.
Though the idea that "trying too hard" was once a popular notion,
dramatic advances in infertility treatments -- particularly in the past decade
-- all but did away with that idea.
Now, however, the wheel has turned yet again, and doctors are once more
looking to the idea that stress -- and sometimes "trying too hard" --
may actually play a role in up to 30% of all infertility problems.
"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," says Margareta D. Pisarska, MD, co-director of
Center for Reproductive Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles
and editor-in-chief of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
While doctors say that right now there aren't enough data to draw a clear
and obvious link, many believe it's only a matter of time before we connect all
the dots and see the bigger picture.
"What we do know now is that when stress-reduction techniques are
employed, something happens in some women that allows them to get pregnant when
they couldn't get pregnant before," says Allen Morgan, MD, director of
Shore Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Lakewood, N.J.
While the exact pathways between fertility and stress remain a mystery,
Morgan believes hormones like cortisol or epinephrine -- which rise and often
remain high during times of chronic stress -- play a key role.
Morgan says that it's also possible that reducing stress may help enhance
proteins within the uterine lining that are involved in implantation. She says
that stress reduction may increase blood flow to the uterus, which also affects
The Science of Stress and Fertility
Pisarska tells WebMD that the effects of stress may be different for each