Stress & Well-Being
Before this beach vacation, I didn’t realize how much daily stress and anxiety had affected my emotional well-being—this was the first time all year I’ve slowed down to take care of myself. That got me thinking about what exactly stress does to the body, and how it affects fertility.
Stress & Fertility
If you’ve been struggling to conceive for a while, I’m sure you are beyond frustrated. And I get that if one more person tells you, “Don’t try so hard,” or, “Just relax and it will happen,” you might just lose it. Here’s the tricky thing: Stress really does damage your fertility potentials, and it’s backed by scientific proof.
It was previously thought that the stress hormone cortisol was one of the major contributors to infertility, but that’s not the case. Researchers from Oxford University and the U.S. National Institute of Health found that women who were highly anxious produced a hormone called alpha-amylase. Women with the highest alpha-amlyase levels were 12 percent less likely to conceive than women who had lower levels (and who also felt more relaxed and happier). The scientists suspect that the stress hormone might affect fertility by reducing the blood flow in the fallopian tubes, which could in turn affect transportation of the egg or sperm.
But it’s not just natural pregnancies that are affected. In research published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005, experts at the University of California at San Diego reported that women undergoing IVF treatments with highest levels of stress retrieved 20% fewer eggs compared with women who were less stressed. Moreover, of those who were able to produce eggs, those who were most stressed were 20% less likely to achieve fertilization success.
Stress, Acupuncture & Chines Medicine
How does stress translate into Chinese medicine? The symptoms of stress, such as anxiety, insomnia, depression and frustration can be blamed on Qi stagnation. That means your Qi, or energy, is blocked. To unblock this Qi, there are many things you can do. Here are some tips:
- Take regular time off to pamper yourself. Go to the spa, get a pedicure, go to the beach. You deserve it!
- Learn to recognize the signs of stress and have an action plan on how to overcome them. Possible solutions include exercise, meditation, acupuncture, or talk therapy.
- Last but not least, take a deep breath. Or a bunch. There’s a reason you feel more relaxed and energized after deep-breathing activities like yoga. From your core, breathe in calm and peace and exhale your stress and anxiety. A good exercise you can do anywhere (although you run the risk of looking a little goofy) is taking deep breaths – as deep as you can go – through alternating nostrils. Too often I see women allow stress to control their bodies and mindset, but this simple exercise is an easy first step toward seizing control of your stress.