What’s the Relationship between Stress and Infertility?
Life can already be stressful when you’re juggling relationships, your job and other commitments – infertility often adds to all of these already existing stressors. Many of Dr. Dan Gehlbach’ s patients at Midwest Reproductive Center wonder if stress and infertility are related – here are some answers.
How Stress and Infertility Affect Quality of Life
We can’t say for sure that excessive stress leads to infertility, but we do know that wellbeing has a strong effect on our overall health. People that experience high levels of consistent stress are often more susceptible to depression, insomnia, weight gain and/or loss and illness.
Stress Can Contribute to Causes of Infertility
Some of the conditions that result from chronic stress can affect proper reproductive functioning in both men and women. Sleep disturbances often create hormone imbalances, for instance. For women this means that stress and infertility could be related because underlying stress has caused irregular or absent menstrual cycles. Without a period, there is no chance of becoming pregnant.
Stress and Infertility: The Chicken and the Egg
Even for people without high levels of stress in their regular lives, the experience of infertility can often be stressful. Some feel frustration that their bodies aren’t behaving the way they wish; some are dealing with newly discovered medical conditions that have caused the fertility problems.
Infertility tests and treatments can be physically, emotionally and financially taxing. Though Dr. Gehlbach and the rest of the Midwest Reproductive Center staff do everything they can to make clinic visits quick and easy, fertility treatments often cause patients and partners to miss work or other activities for multiple appointments. The experience can take a toll on the relationship they have with each other and other people.
Social Isolation, Stress and Infertility
One of the most common complaints of our patients experiencing infertility is social isolation. Infertility is often not discussed openly, so couples or individuals that are having trouble getting pregnant can feel isolated and alienated from the rest of the world. It can seem that everyone else gets pregnant without a problem and patients can spend time wondering: Why us? Because of this, those experiencing infertility often keep to themselves, not sharing their struggle with their friends and family members. In some cases, family members or friends can make insensitive comments that increase the feeling of isolation. Whether or not this type of stress causes infertility is irrelevant – it makes life harder.
If stress can affect infertility, why not just remove the stress and infertility from our lives? If only it were that easy!
Turn Stress and Infertility into an Opportunity to Connect and Find Calm
While researchers haven’t been able to definitively prove that stress directly causes infertility, there is ample evidence to suggest that stress-reduction can improve health and wellbeing, including fertility. There are several options for couples and individuals seeking to reduce stress in their lives:
- Connect with other people experiencing infertility: Please ask the staff at Midwest Reproductive Center for information about Kansas City-area or online support groups.
- Seek individual or couples’ therapy: Enlisting a professional to help give voice to worries and concerns often helps our patients get the support they need to face the challenges of infertility.
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine: When we are very busy or very stressed it’s easy to skip self-care like physical activity. This is unfortunate because those are the times we really need the endorphins and cardiovascular resilience to help us through. Yoga, walking, swimming and playing team sports are all good options.
If you are experiencing stress and infertility, please contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gehlbach to discuss your treatment plan. Education and information are good tools to reduce your infertility-related stress. The compassionate staff at Midwestern Reproductive Center will give you all the support you need to take control over this chapter of your life.