It’s simply a fact. Chronic, unmanaged stress impacts EVERY aspect of health in a negative way.
Perhaps nobody hears “just relax” more than the infertile couple, particularly the female partner who is having difficulty conceiving. At first, it’s something taken to heart. After hearing it over and over, it becomes blatantly offensive.
The bottom line, though, is that stress is often the only thing preventing you from getting pregnant. Going on a vacation, drinking a glass of wine, or doing other things that temporarily relieve stress is often not enough. In fact, going on vacation can be stressful for some, and the alcohol in wine is not exactly GOOD for your nervous system OR your liver, both of which are essential for proper hormone function. The effect of stress on fertility is VERY REAL and can be VERY SEVERE.
It’s impossible to ELIMINATE stress. The idea isn’t to avoid stress like it’s some kind of plague or evil thing. Stress is necessary. It helps us grow in some ways. It gives us strength and allows us to learn new things. Problems arise, though, when we allow stress to become unmanageable, to dominate us, and to cause us to waste our life energy.
The kind of stress management necessary for fertility enhancement requires a COMMITMENT to continually work on lessening the effects of stress on your life. It’s a matter of taking full responsibility for yourself and dealing with the things that “stress you out” right here and right now.
Stress-Fertility Connection Number One: Chronic Stress Affects Your Ovulation – And Not In A Helpful Way
Cortisol, the body’s primary “stress hormone” is a very strong blocker of many other hormones. Although cortisol also does many GOOD things, it is also a central driver of our physiological stress response. Why is this? It’s simple actually. When you are under threat (or even just a perceived threat — real or not), your body very intelligently wants to gather as many resources as possible to fight of the threat RIGHT NOW. As a result, things like digesting food, reflective/spiritual thinking, positive feelings, and reproduction take a back seat.
Cortisol is a SURVIVAL hormone, not a reproductive hormone. It plays a small role in reproduction, but it plays a BIG role in survival. So, when you’re stressed, cortisol rises. This leads to a few unhelpful effects for your fertility.
First, cortisol will upset the rhythm of your luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion. LH is THE hormone that triggers your ovulation. When LH secretion is not timed properly, there is a strong chance that the egg destined for ovulation will not be mature at the time ovulation, or is TOO mature, because the LH surge that triggers the follicle containing the egg to rupture is poorly timed.
Think of it like this: There’s a communication happening between your ovary and brain. The ovary is telling the brain “OK, I’m almost ready…” and the brain is hearing that and getting ready to trigger ovulation. When the ovary finally says, “OK, it’s time!”, the brain will send the LH out in a big pulse, called a “surge”. Cortisol is like static on that line of communication. Like interference causing a poor cellphone signal. Your ovary and brain are unable to coordinate between each other and the timing of the LH surge is off.
Stored sugar is also released into the bloodstream in response to cortisol surges. What this means is that your blood sugar goes up even though you didn’t eat any sugar. It’s a brilliant thing if you are walking in the forest and see a grizzly bear — you’re going to need to run really fast, really soon. So, your body very wisely raises its blood sugar levels to provide the energy for what will be a run for your life.
But chronically elevated — or unstable — cortisol levels will cause havoc with your blood sugar system. This is absolutely NOT HELPFUL for your fertility or ovulation. That’s because excessive or unstable insulin causes abnormal follicle growth. In fact, it is one of the drivers of PCOS — a condition where ovulation is either rare or absent. Just like anything else, there’s a spectrum here and even if you haven’t been diagnosed with overt PCOS, your stress may still be affecting your ovulation JUST ENOUGH to cause problems with your eggs.
I’ll get into some other ways stress impacts fertility, particular LH levels, progesterone levels and sleep quality – all of which are critical for egg quality, controlling inflammation, proper implantation and ongoing pregnancy, and much more.
If you want to get a head-start and begin calming your stress RIGHT NOW, I strongly recommend you download my free PDF “Big Mind Method”. It teaches you a dead-simple, easy-to-follow method that dramatically reduces your stress in literally 10 seconds. You can start using it TODAY to tackle stress and learn how to keep it to a minimum once and for all. Click here to download it now.
Chris Axelrad is a Master Acupuncturist and Fertility Coach, and founder and Executive Director of The Axelrad Clinic in Houston, TX. He is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, and Master of Medical Qigong who specializes in Holistic Endocrinology and Wellness Care using the time-tested medical system of Traditional Chinese Medicine, coupled with modern biomedical knowledge. He is the current President of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine, a specialty board dedicated to excellence in holistic fertility care. Chris brings to his practice a deep understanding of the natural, holistic principles of Chinese Medicine, and an equally deep respect for the modern system of medicine practiced by his forebears. It is this balance that makes him uniquely qualified as a practitioner of the highest quality.
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