How stress affects fertility

Stress is bad news for fertility. Mother nature in all her wisdom makes it so that babies come into the world have a safe place to be nurtured. When women are under stress from trying to meet work deadlines, running late or being angry at the photocopier for jamming yet again; the hormones produced are no different to those our prehistoric ancestors produced when running away from a sabre toothed tiger! In both cases blood flow is restricted from the reproductive system as it is rushed into the muscles. Fertility hormone production is hindered, as childbearing is not deemed a necessity for life in that moment, instead adrenalin and cortisol are released and we’re able to escape from the stress.  Well, in prehistoric times we could, modern life and infertility (the biggest stress of all) isn’t so easy to escape from.

When fertility problems endure for months and years, stress levels can get very high. Women worry excessively about never being able to have a baby and commonly experience negative thought patterns, a vicious cycle is created. Proven, safe ways to break this cycle and reduce stress include positive affirmations, visualisation and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) - a type of mind-body therapy that helps women change the way they view their situation that changes their emotional and hormonal response. EFT has been used successfully for many years with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other practical ways of reducing stress are getting a better work-life balance, learning mindfulness, meditation and proper breathing all of which help reduce stress hormones and improve chances of conception.   

Nutritionally, there is also a lot that can be done to negate the effects of stress, especially B vitamins and zinc. A diet rich in plants, wholegrains, good quality proteins and fats is essential to keep your hormones in check to give you the best chance at coping with stress and conceiving a happy and healthy baby.  

In addition to the usual suspects, a diet low in sugar is important too. Just as adrenalin upsets reproductive hormones function, so does insulin – the hormone released into our blood stream in response to food high in sugar content.

By working out the best method to manage your stress and following a varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals, nutrient-rich blood is able to flow into the reproductive organs supporting egg quality, fertilisation and a the best outcome for a happy healthy baby. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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