High Stress Levels Can Delay Pregnancy

Oxford University researchers conducted a study in which they measured the stress hormones in women who were planning on having a baby and the results surprised them. The women who had the highest levels of stress hormones in their body showed markedly reduced chances of becoming pregnant. While doctors are well aware of the effect of smoking, being overweight, poor diet, or drinking alcohol can have on the future success of conception, they are less sure of how stress influences fertility rates.

About the Study

Saliva measurements of stress hormone markers were taken from all the participants in the study. The two stress hormones which were measured were adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol has been shown in the past few years to be a hormone connected with chronic stress, while adrenalin is the hormone which responds to emergencies-our "fight or flight" hormone. The indicator for adrenalin levels is known as alpha-amylase, and the women who had the highest levels of this chemical in their bodies had at least a twelve percent reduced chance of pregnancy during their monthly fertile period. During the study, 175 out of 274 women became pregnant, and after adjusting for age, and other environmental issues, the reason was pinpointed to stress levels.

Cause or Effect?

When you are trying to get pregnant, you will naturally feel stress as months pass with no success. You will be up one minute and down the next, and your hope will ebb and flow. You are already emotional, and when you add the demands of fertility treatments, doctor's visits, medications and financial considerations, it's no wonder you are stressed out. Researchers are unsure whether stress leads to infertility, or whether infertility causes you to be stressed out. One factor in the mix is how you personally cope with stress, the amount of stress in your environment, and what kind of support systems you have in place, however most people will find that it really is a vicious cycle-you get stressed trying to get pregnant, which keeps you from getting pregnant, which causes more stress.

Coping With the Stress of Infertility

Couples find their own ways of dealing with the stress of infertility; they may try guided imagery, yoga, exercise, relaxation techniques, psychotherapy, massage, journaling, or a myriad of other things which can reduce stress. In order to really calm your anxieties you will have to rely on coping strategies you've used in the past. Many people will take up a new hobby in order to release tensions and stress, others will reach out to loved ones, join a support group or pray in order to help themselves feel better. It's helpful for most people to try and take one day at a time, and practice using coping methods on a daily basis. Stress-management will have to be practiced on an ongoing basis in order to keep the stress levels at an acceptable level, allowing your body to relax and do what it was meant to do.

Acknowledge Your Feelings to Reduce Stress

Once you realize that what you are feeling is not only entirely normal, but also that thousands of other couples have worked through the same feelings, you may immediately feel better. Infertility testing can be completely draining, and you may end up feeling as though you have no control over your own body. Learn to communicate your questions and your fears to your doctors and your partner, or to a counselor you feel safe with. Many people find joining an infertility support group can be an invaluable resource for lessening the stress they feel. Stay in close-and honest-communication with your partner. Make no mistake, infertility can be hard on a marriage, so the more you discuss your feelings, the less stress you will feel. Make sure to stay closely connected with your family and close friends, and talk to someone who understands what you are going through. Whether stress brings on infertility, or infertility brings on stress, the end result is the same, so do whatever it takes to de-stress for the success of your future family.

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