The Connection Between Emotional Well-Being and Fertility

A relatively small percentage of couples (30% to be exact) get pregnant within the first month of trying. That means for 7 out of 10 couples, there's anywhere between months to years of trying. A delay in conception could be for a wide variety of reasons. However, there's been a growing interest in holistic fertility (also known as natural fertility). More and more people are asking themselves, can stress cause infertility? The answer is complicated, but it can't be denied that emotional well-being plays a role in the conception journey. 


Understanding Fertility 


When a woman sees that first negative pregnancy test, she often starts to panic, "Why am I not getting pregnant?" Unfortunately, the answer is rarely straightforward. It's essential to understand many factors can be at play, from genetics to lifestyle factors to age, health, or not understanding your ovulation cycle. Take comfort in the fact that many couples don't get pregnant immediately, but most do get pregnant within the first year of trying. 

Additionally, you can't answer what causes infertility in women without addressing the male's role in this. Women can't—and shouldn't—accept all "responsibility." Fertility issues are found to be one-third female-driven, one-third male-driven, and one-third unknown or the couple pairing. 


Potential Signs of Infertility 


Infertility is often difficult to diagnose, but these are the most common potential signs of infertility in women: 

  1. Experiencing pain during regular intercourse 
  2. Long, heavy, or painful periods 
  3. Irregular periods 
  4. Dark or pale menstrual blood 
  5. Significant hormone changes 
  6. Obesity 
  7. Medical conditions (PCOS, endometriosis, cancer, cancer treatments, premature menopause, damage to the fallopian tubes or ovaries) 
  8. Inability to conceive after actively trying for a year 

Ultimately, it's vital to check with your healthcare provider, OB/GYN, or fertility specialist if you suspect you're infertile. 


Stress and Fertility: How Much Stress Is Too Much When Pregnant? 


Stress is your body reacting to pressure from a specific situation. You can experience stress on a physical, emotional, or mental level. And while no one leads a stress-free life, it can be damaging to experience too much stress over an extended period. 

So, can stress cause infertility? Most experts believe that there's a low chance that stress is the sole factor for a woman's infertility. Still, stress can —and does—impact a woman's chances of conceiving. For example, some research indicates that women with a history of depression have twice the chance of experiencing infertility. Anxiety was also correlated with fertility issues. 

And a 2018 Boston University School of Public Health study found that women who experience high levels of stress saw more fertility issues than women reporting lower levels of stress. 

The science is clear: a woman's stress levels can affect her fertility. 


The Emotional Well-Being Factor 


So many of us focus on our physical health because it's easy to see when it's neglected. But part of being a healthy, happy person is ensuring your emotional health is also taken care of. 

When we're under immense stress, our body produces more of the "stress hormone" cortisol. You can think of cortisol as your body's alarm system. So, you have high cortisol levels when you're under a lot of stress. It's like walking around with an alarm going off all the time, which isn't a healthy way for anyone to live. Prolonged high levels of cortisol may lead to weight gain, anxiety, depression, heart disease, memory and concentration issues, and insomnia. 

If you're under a lot of stress, your emotional state will suffer. You'll feel irritable, anxious, and depressed, which may trigger more stress. It's a never-ending cycle unless you take control and make some changes to reduce your stress. 


Coping Strategies 


The great news is stress isn't permanent. There are plenty of stress management techniques out there for individuals who are trying to conceive: 

  • Communicate with your partner: Let them know what is stressing you out and share ideas for what they can do to help you. 
  • Set boundaries: Identify what's causing you stress and try to set boundaries in those areas, whether work, friendships, family, or anything else. 
  • Focus on relaxation: It might sound counterproductive, but relaxation can take some work! Often, you have to carve time in your day for moments of relaxation that can help you unwind and calm down. Some activities you can incorporate into your routine include meditation, yoga, going for walks outside, and journaling. 
  • Get movement in: Exercise is vital for our overall health and may help reduce stress. Try to get in a good workout 3-5 times a week. 
  • Reduce sex stress: With every month that goes by without a positive pregnancy test, it can feel more and more stressful when it comes time to "try" again that month. If you're feeling stressed about sex, talk to your partner. There's a chance they're feeling the pressure too. Support each other and find ways to make sex feel fun again. 
  • Seek professional help: Counseling is a great resource to help couples dealing with infertility. When you're ready, speak to a counselor for guidance on the next steps and coping strategies for all your emotional turmoil. 
  • Expectful app: Try the app Expectful®, as it's an excellent resource for fertility-focused meditations. 
  • Build a support system: Dealing with infertility is challenging. Make sure you have a solid emotional network that you can lean on when times feel especially tough. 


Lifestyle and Emotional Well-Being 


Don't forget that your lifestyle choices can also impact your emotional well-being and fertility. Some of the changes you can make to your everyday life that can have a positive effect on your chances of conceiving are: 

  1. Limit your alcohol intake 
  2. Stop smoking 
  3. Eat a healthy, nutritious diet 
  4. Exercise often 
  5. Prioritize relaxing activities (journaling, reading, biking, spending time with loved ones) 


Infertility is Stressful; Don't Add To It 


Dealing with infertility comes with many complicated emotions. Your fertility may be due to factors beyond your control, but we also know that living a high-stress life may not help your chances of conceiving. Today is the day you prioritize your emotional well-being and destress your life. 

If you need support in your infertility journey, check out Premama Fertility Support and other products. 

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