Getting All The Facts
Trying to conceive can be a stressful time. Along with tracking ovulation, couples need to try to time intercourse just right. A two-week wait is required before a couple can take a pregnancy test to see if conception occurred. Understandably, all of that anxiety could make a person feel down. But can stress impact fertility?
Science doesn’t support the myth
Couples trying to get pregnant are often told to relax as fertility can be directly impacted by stress. But while the medical community knows that sustained periods of stress aren’t ideal for other bodily systems, the science doesn’t support the notion that there’s a link between stress and infertility. A longitudinal study published followed 217 heterosexual couples undergoing assisted reproductive treatments and found no association between a woman’s anxiety level and the number of viable follicles found in the ovaries. Anxiety wasn’t linked with a drop in sperm quantity or quality with men.
Some coping mechanisms can sabotage efforts
Stress alone isn’t an indicator of a person’s fertility and hasn’t been linked to infertility. However, evidence has proven that engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive drinking, using tobacco products, or taking recreational drugs can hurt fertility. The negative impact can happen in both men and women. For example, heavy drinking in men can lower testosterone levels, shrink the testes, and impact the quality and motility of sperm. In women, excessive drinking can interrupt the menstrual cycle and change hormone levels, leading to a lower likelihood of getting pregnant.
How stress can impact the body
While no direct link between stress and infertility has been verified, scientists do know that sustained stress is unhealthy and can harm other bodily functions. Stress can impact joints and muscles and cause flare-ups with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Constant stress can also lead to digestive upset. Over time, this can lead to more complex digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. Excessive stress can weaken the immune system, leaving people susceptible to falling sick.
Maintaining mental and physical health
Experts and laypeople agree that the time period can be stressful. Rest assured that occasional anxiety or stress about getting a positive pregnancy test result won’t impact fertility in men or women. Men and women should find healthy outlets to refocus attention, such as engaging in fun activities or hobbies, exercising, or even finding a trusted friend or relative to talk to about any anxieties. People concerned that stress may be encouraging unhealthy behaviors or that other factors might be impacting fertility should speak with a physician or fertility specialist.