Stress can stop you from getting pregnant. More and more research seems to confirm a link between stress, anxiety, depression, and infertility, says Alice Domar, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF.
Stress and female fertility
First, when you’re stressed out, you’re probably not having sex as often. This, of course, is an obvious reason stopping you from getting pregnant. “You’re also more likely to smoke and binge drink,” says Dr. Domar, both of which have been known to negatively impact conception. Stress may actually play a role in up to 30% of all infertility problems.
Secondly, stress can interfere with fertility. If stress takes a toll on your body, your hormone levels are often affected. Then it could lead to late ovulate than usual in your menstrual cycle, or not at all. This condition is called stress-induced anovulation.
Chronic stress can affect the hypothalamus of your brain, which regulates the hormones that trigger the ovaries to release eggs each month. This gland also regulates your partner’s testosterone levels.
It’s important to differentiate between constant and sudden stress. Everyday stresses are classified as constant stress. Your body is probably used to everyday stresses, so your cycle is unlikely to be affected by these. Of course, everyone reacts to stress in different ways.
It’s sudden stress – such as an accident or a death in the family – that can throw your cycle off and interfere with ovulation. It could also be a traumatic event or a change of routine, such as a business trip, that delays your ovulation.
Megan Karnis, Medical Director of The ONE Fertility Clinic in Burlington, Ont., said: “A lot of women think the best thing to do when you’re stressed is to take time off work. In my experience, that doesn’t help, because it makes a woman feel she has to get pregnant in that time and then the stress to get pregnant is so much higher.”
Stress and male fertility
If your partner is under stress, it might also affect your chance of getting pregnant. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in around 40% of infertile couples the male partner is the sole cause or contributing cause of infertility.
A study of the Environment and Reproduction at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on the relation of stress and male infertility showed that men who experienced two or more stressful life events in the past year had a lower percentage of sperm movement and a lower percentage of sperm of normal sperm shape, compared with men who did not experience any stressful life events.
Like stress and female infertility, stress can affect male’s hormones too. Stress could activate the release of glucocorticoids – steroid hormones that affect the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – which could reduce testosterone levels and sperm production.
Although workplace stress did not directly affect semen quality in the men, the researchers found that those who experienced job strains had lower levels of the hormone testosterone in their semen, which could affect reproductive health.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.