How Stress Affects Your Fertility

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Stress is a very common part of issues with maintaining regular periods. So ovulatory issues often have a stress component. The stresses can be internal stresses, life stresses. Being stressed does tend to make us sleep less. There can be fatigue that goes along with it, stress hormones like the cortisol hormone tends to rise, and we can see blood pressure rise with that, we can see the changes in eating patterns that are also kind of generated by increased cortisol. So we definitely can see whole body changes with stress, and they can have an impact on our ability to conceive. It has a term called hypothalamic amenorrhea, and that describes a group of women who don't get regular periods because their hypothalamus is being suppressed. Severe stress can actually shut down our hypothalamic signals of the pituitary to make hormones like FSH, follicle stimulating hormone, and LH, which is luteinizing hormone, and those are very critical hormones that drive our body to make eggs each month, to ovulate. It's a dilemma for us to find out which is the chicken and which is the egg, which comes first, because stress can change our period, it can make it harder to conceive sometimes, but then having difficulty conceiving brings on its own stress and kind of can feed back in. And my goal is always to try to break that cycle and provide stress coping mechanisms to help absorb the stress. There are some simple methods of stress relief. Some of them begin with meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, even just carving out time that you dedicate to relaxation in a week. Other things, like acupuncture, could be useful. Acupuncture can sometimes lower stress. It may even have an impact, a positive impact, on fertility. And even talking with someone, getting a chance to speak with a counselor, someone who is not your best friend or your sister, but somebody that you can bounce ideas off of, it can be helpful.