Recent research tells us that stress boosts levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, catecholamine and cortisol, which can inhibit the release of the body’s main hormone, GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone), which is responsible for the release of sex hormones. Subsequently this may suppress ovulation in women, reduce sperm count in men and lower libido in both women and men.
A general example of the importance of GnRH in fertility is this: Manufactured by the hypothalamus, GnRH is responsible for signaling the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland, which then stimulates the gonads (ovaries in women, testes in men) to release sex hormones (estrogens and androgens). The levels of sex hormones rise and once a certain level is achieved, become part of a negative feedback loop (negative feedback inhibition) which signals the suppression of LH.
Any disruption to GnRH may cause insufficient release of hormones from the pituitary gland which can cause their target organs to no longer work as they once did and in extreme cases, atrophy over time and no longer function.
Chronic stress may cause lack of libido as well as a decrease in general fertility. This has become such a common issue that they have created a name for it: Stress Induced Reproductive Dysfunction.
These facts are very important to consider if you have been trying to conceive with no results. It also shows that stress relief should be a part of every couple’s conception plan even if they are going through IVF.
Trying to carry a pregnancy to term during stressful times places the fetus at risk. The body knows this, which is why it creates an environment that is basically inhospitable to conception. Generally, a stressed person is an unhealthy person. People living with a high stress level are typically overly tired and filled with nervous tension which may cause them to choose poor dietary and lifestyle habits.
Stress and Fertility
Fertility requires a delicate balance of hormones to orchestrate the production, release, fertilization and implantation of an egg. This balance can be affected by many conditions within the body, including stress. Stress, either low-level daily hassles or one-time big events, causes a release of hormones that can interfere with the delicate balance needed to create a new life.
Current research demonstrates that stress during an IVF procedure causes a decrease in the number of eggs developed, retrieved and transferred. Other research demonstrates that stress can cause changes in ovulation, changes in cycle length and tubal spasms.
Stress can magnify the feelings of fear, worry, emptiness and anger. The combination of mental and physical reactions can lead to a downward spiral and an overall feeling of a loss of control. Techniques that help women work with and release stress can enhance feelings of control.When it comes to good health and reproduction, the impact stress has on our bodies along with our ability or inability to cope with it is often the difference between good and bad health, which can determine their level of fertility.
There are many ways the effects of stress can disrupt the optimal physiological functions of the body. It can come in many forms; physiological, psychological, metabolic and environmental. When all is said and done the body’s main response to this is to produce the fight or flight response as it doesn’t distinguish between different forms of stress. The fight or flight system is responsible for redirecting energy and resources away from the key systems and organs like digestion and the reproductive organs, when we are under severe or chronic stress, directing it instead to the muscles and organs that are necessary for survival. This redirection is allowed to take place because, on the body’s list of priorities, survival comes first and reproduction comes last. This has a doubling up effect as far as reproduction is concerned. At the same time the immune system is preparing for injury or infection in the short term, but continual long term stress can cause excessive wear on the body and activate a deterioration of the immune system, many studies have shown the effects of stress on the immune system. Dr. Alan Beer, a world-renowned immunologist, has linked as much 40% of infertility and 80% of miscarriages to problems of the immune system.
Stress is often associated with just worry, but stress has a much broader definition to your body. Whether it is emotional, environmental, an illness, hormonal or just pushing yourself too hard, any kind of change can be stressful. With regards to health and fertility the key areas that stress effects are the hormones, immune system and digestion.
As stress is a multi-faceted problem, it needs to be addressed from many angles e.g. with regards to nutritional stress this is incorporated into the nutritional program.
The aim of this program is exactly that. To help people deal and overcome barriers related to stress in ways customized to one’s personal needs.