OK, so if you read part one and two of this three-part series, “The 5 Ways Chronic Stress Can Impact Your Fertility”, you have a good understanding of THREE primary ways stress alters endocrine function via cortisol and sleep pathways.
Here two more primary effects of stress I regularly see in my acupuncture clinic. Again, most of the time I see people who are having two or more of these effects, but by getting your stress more under control, you can significantly reduce ALL of these.
Stress-Fertility Connection Number Four: Chronic Stress Changes Your Circulation – In Ways That Move Blood AWAY From Reproductive Organs
When you are under threat — again, whether real or perceived — blood circulation patterns change dramatically.
It’s been long known that stress raises blood pressure. The (very intelligent) reason for this is that you’re not much good to fight, or run, for your life if your blood is all pooled deep within your internal organs. So, a stressful situation will trigger a rise in blood pressure to push blood upwards to your brain and sensory organs, and outward to your limbs and muscles. In other words, get ready to fight or run like heck.
Situations like this takes a good deal of blood away from ALL your internal organs except your heart and your lungs. That means your digestive organs, your kidneys, your liver, and (you guessed it) your reproductive organs all have reduced blood supply during times of stress.
Blood is absolutely essential for life and absolutely essential for reproduction. Not only does it nourish and bring nutrients to the follicle and egg, it also builds and brings nutrients into the uterine lining. If you are chronically stressed, less blood flow to your internal reproductive organs equals less potential for new life to emerge.
Not only that, but think about the fact that stress also moves blood away from the digestive tract. This causes impaired nutrient absorption. So not only is there LESS blood in and around your ovaries and uterus — the blood is less nutrient-dense. A proverbial “double whammy”.
Stress-Fertility Connection Number Five: Chronic Stress Leads To Chronic Inflammation
One of cortisol’s most important – and life saving – effects is its ability to suppress the immune system. Yes, that’s right, I said SUPPRESS the immune system.
Your immune system is absolutely critical to your survival, but if unchecked it could literally eat you alive. Your immune system has killer cells that literally eat other cells. Once turned against your healthy tissue, these killer cells can cause a LOT of damage. In fact, there are disorders classified as “autoimmune” disorders where this actually happens — our own immune cells try to destroy healthy tissue causing all kinds of problems.
One of our body’s primary mechanisms for regulating the immune system is through the secretion of cortisol. Part of this is adaptive in that if we are running for our lives the last thing we need is for our sprained or broken ankle to swell up and keep us from continuing to run as fast as we can. So when cortisol levels are high during a stressful event, it is actually HELPFUL that the immune reaction called “inflammation” is kept at bay.
In the aftermath of a stressful event or injury, the hurt tissue will rapidly and often severely swell. This inflammation is a normal and necessary immune response that is a critical stage in the healing process. Just like cortisol, inflammation is not inherently evil.
Issues arise, however, when cortisol levels — driven by chronic, poorly managed stress — become chronically elevated and/or unstable. In this case, immune function becomes “abnormal”. Tissue repair and regeneration are interrupted because immune function is not properly regulated. Eventually, the immune system begins to break down, and your body becomes subjected to a chronic, low-grade inflammation.
This ongoing mild inflammation is absolutely devastating to every tissue and cell, especially in the reproductive tract. Eggs are extremely fragile and, when exposed to elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals and by-products, are easily damaged.
Conventional science used to scoff at this concept of chronic inflammation damaging fertility, but it is now widely accepted in the scientific community that endometriosis and even PCOS — among other causes of infertility — are often associated with chronic inflammation.
So, What Now?
I’ve just told you about 5 ways that stress has significant negative impacts on your fertility. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
I don’t know if stress is the entire reason why you aren’t conceiving, but I can tell you this: Being chronically stressed WILL NOT help. The best thing you can do — not just for your fertility, but for your sanity, your longevity, your LIFE — is to learn how to properly manage stress. Doing so means you no longer suffer the damage caused by slower healing, abnormal immune function, lack of rest, suboptimal nutrient absorption, and the other countless effects chronic stress brings.
I strongly recommend you download my free PDF “The Big Mind Method”. It teaches you a simple, easy-to-follow method that can dramatically reduce 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.
Check out the products for TTC through parenthood in the Babies After 35 Amazon shop, online courses and other services that come "Dr. Clark-approved"!Check out my favorite things