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How does stress really affect fertility?

Category: Blog, Fertility, Pregnancy

I’ve touched on stress and how it affected my fertility so I thought this week would be beneficial to go into a bit more detail on how stress really effects the body and reproductive system.

When you think of stress what do you think of? A stressful work environment, meeting deadlines or the night before an assignment is due, cramming for an exam, or is it family pressures, money …?? The truth is that there are a million different answers and they are different for everyone. It is purely your perception of a stressful situation and how you cope with it. A lot of the time we don’t even realise we are stressed! An important thing to note here is stress is a normal healthy response which we are meant to experience however not long term, it should come and go.

I didn’t realise I was stressed, I was just busy and felt I didn’t have enough hours in the day (sound familiar?). This was actually super stressful for my body and with out knowing it at the time it was making me feel anxious. Another stress on your body that people don’t realise is excessive exercise. After a busy day at work you go to the gym, lights bright running your little heart out, you probably feel great after as you moved a bit of the stagnate qi that you had pent up from the busy day at work but at the same time you have depleted your qi. Your probably now running on your adrenals. In Chinese Medicine when the sun sets we should be nourishing our Yin, a time to restore and build our energy, using the morning Yang time to exercise.

So how is this stress affecting your fertility?? Stress and anxiety can manifest physically causing oxidative and inflammatory micro flora in the uterus. When we are stressed our hypothalamus tells our body to respond with stress hormones which inhibit gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), this is an extremely important hormone when it comes to fertility. GnRH signals lutenizing (LH) and follicular stimulating (FSH) hormones that are essential to make ovulation happen.

In Chinese medicine stress affects the Liver organ which is responsible for the free flow of qi, this therefore causes stagnation. If qi doesn’t flow smoothly then blood doesn’t flow to areas where we need a good supply of qi and blood for conception.

Now this may be hard to hear as trying to conceive after a long period of time can be stressful! IVF and assisted reproductive treatment is stressful! But it isn’t all bad as we can help you with this and I am proof of that. Acupuncture has demonstrated through clinical trials its effectiveness on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis via increasing β-endorphins, which in turn affects GnRH secretion and the menstrual cycle, ovulation and fertility. Acupuncture can therefore be used to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response. I also believe in the importance of having support and someone to empathise with you during this time. Listening and talking about what is going on can be a powerful tool and we encourage that during our treatments at Life Synergy.

Written by Brodie Mitchell, Acupuncturist

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