Everyone suffers from stress but there is nothing more stressful than infertility. Stress is defined as any event that a person perceives as threatening or harmful. The way the body reacts to stress is called the fight or flight response. That response results in increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased respiration. That would be great if a bear was chasing you but those increases can cause infertility.
But does all that stress cause infertility? Actually there is very little evidence that infertility is caused by stress. However, high levels of stress in women can change hormone levels and cause irregular ovulation. In rare cases, high stress levels may cause fallopian tube spasm in women and decreased sperm production in men.
The reality is infertility causes stress not the other way around. Women undergoing treatment like IVF have a similar and higher level of stress as women with life threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Infertile couples often suffer from chronic stress dealing with the high hopes of conception and then dealing with the crushing blow of disappointment if they do not get pregnant.
The stress caused from being infertile is increased by our society’s emphasis on planning a family. Infertility may make you feel that you have no control over your body. It may even be a major crisis for some people because the goal of being a parent is so crucial to their self esteem. And it is a vicious cycle of stress. A couple’s intimacy is reduced by the infertility experience which further contributes to increased stress levels. On top of that is coordinating appointments with work schedules. That is way too much stress!
What can you do to reduce your stress? The following are some great ideas from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine:
- Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and your doctor.
- Get emotional support so you don’t feel isolated. RESOLVE is a national support organization for couples with infertility. For information on local chapters call 6170623-0744.
- Learn stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga.
- Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and other stimulants.
- Exercise regularly to release tension.
- Create a medical treatment plan with your doctor that both you and your partner are comfortable with.
- Learn as much about the cause of your infertility and the treatment options available.
- Start a blog on infertility or stress. You can read more about that on our blog on writing your own blog.