Stress and its Effects on Pregnancy Rates

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It’s the classic marriage scene: He says “Honey, let’s make love so we can relax”. She says “Let’s relax so we can make love!” Either way, there’s no denying the message: stress has a profound impact on our relationships and our intimate lives. It’s a mood-killer. As it turn out, it’s also a fertility-killer.

Stress can work its way through our bodies like a pinball setting off bells and lights as the cortisol levels rise. Times of ease and levity are punctuated with periods of joy and restful sleep, comfortable digestion and all-around good health. Intuitively we know that periods of stress bring chronic aches, poor sleep, colds and flus and infections. As it turns out, stress also affects your fertility and this study ( shows us one of the mechanisms. A substance called GnRH stimulates the reproductive hormonal feedback loop. Without it, your brain won’t produce all the other substances responsible for stimulating ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy. Unfortunately, high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones inhibit the release of GnRH and increase the production of GnIH, an inhibiting hormone.

When your stress response is triggered, your body turns on its Sympathetic nervous system. This hard-wired setting stimulates a series of physiological responses which redirect all available resources to survival. For example, blood flow increases to the skeletal muscles, heart rate accelerates, pupils dilate as you prepare to either run or fight. This is how our sophisticated nervous systems have ushered humanity into the 21st century. However, the last thing you need, when running from a predator, is a pregnancy. Wisely, your nervous system directs resources away from non-survival organs, such as digestion and reproduction, leaving you free to moderate the dangers around you.

So that’s the coles notes explanation of stress and how it threatens your fertility. Stay tuned for some suggestions about lowering your cortisol levels and getting back to your rest and digest (and gestate!) stage.