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Myth or Fact? Stress Causes Infertility – An Expert’s View

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In today’s fast-paced society, it is easy to get stressed. Stress can interfere with conception and make it harder to get pregnant. Recent studies by scientists at National Institutes of Health and the University of Oxford indicate that it is stress that is one of the rising factors for declining pregnancy rates worldwide.

Even after decades of progressive development in Indian society, some portion of society still blames women for the majority of infertility issues. But as science has proved, infertility isn’t just a woman’s problem, but one that men are prone to as well. In fact, almost 30% of infertility cases involve men.

More importantly, people should never feel or be made to feel ashamed about infertility. It’s not a disease, but rather it’s a medical condition that can be effectively treated.

We all know infertility causes stress, but how does stress cause infertility? Well, much can be attributed to a number of factors including delayed pregnancy, unhealthy lifestyles, irregular sleep patterns or genetic factors like PCOD, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, the cost of IVF cycles, etc. To compound matters, infertility is a matter that is never spoken of in the open but often grieved about behind closed doors.

Centuries of conditioning has allowed thousands of women to erroneously blame themselves for their family’s inability to conceive. Additionally, those women who have undergone a failed fertility treatment, often have to deal with the added fear of going through another treatment cycle till a successful delivery is achieved.

These factors alone, make it important the understand the mechanisms, causes and coping techniques for pregnancy-induced or infertility-induced stress.

Mechanisms of Stress:
Stress increases the levels of hormones, such as adrenaline, catecholamines and cortisol, and it can inhibit the release of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone), which is responsible for the release of sex hormones. It may suppress ovulation in women and decrease sperm count in men. It can also cause decreased desire to have sex in both women and men. Adrenaline inhibits us from utilizing the hormone progesterone, which is essential for fertility. It also causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which may be responsible for infertility. Chronic stress can also cause depression while affecting your immune system and sleep patterns.

Causes of Stress:
Infertility testing and treatments can be physically, emotionally, and financially stressful. To overcome this stress, we at Manipal Fertility offer financial assistance to our patients who are unable to afford it.

Another contributing factor is the lack of intimacy between a couple due to difficult past experiences in conception. The effects of infertility in couples can be painful, but with the right intervention and support, the journey to parenthood can be an easy road.

Coping Techniques:
The first step in reducing the stress of infertility is to accept the situation as it is and speak to an IVF specialist who will help you with the right information, techniques and methods.

Here are a few coping techniques that we’d recommend to help add a calmer perspective to your life:

  • Communication helps, be it with your partner, friends, doctors or staff
  • Find emotional aid with support groups, documentaries and books
  • Stress reduction therapies like meditation or yoga, acupuncture, or counseling are especially useful
  • Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and other stimulants
  • Regular exercise can help release physical and emotional tension
  • Plan the treatment with an IVF expert to make the right decision