If you’re struggling with infertility, you’ve no doubt heard that stress is a factor. You’ve probably also heard health care providers and other well-meaning people say “just relax,” which is about the least helpful thing someone can say to you when you’re struggling with managing the stress of trying to get pregnant, whether through natural means or infertility treatments. In our busy, achievement-minded culture, most people don’t realize the amount of chronic stress they endure and how it affects their physical body, particularly the hormonal system.
Hormones Have a Major Role to Play
There are about 100 hormones circulating in your body consisting of reproductive hormones, metabolic hormones, stress hormones, and sex hormones. They are constantly sending messages from your brain to your body and back again. Hormones, or the imbalance of hormones, are responsible for conceiving a pregnancy, maintaining pregnancy, menstrual irregularities, PMS symptoms, menopausal symptoms, changes in libido, erectile dysfunction and much more. The proper balance of all hormones in our system keeps our bodies functioning optimally.
Stress & Hormone Balance
Stress, especially chronic, unmanaged stress, can greatly affect the balance of hormones. During a stressful event, the body goes into a survival mode known as “fight or flight” and prioritizes the systems that need blood, nutrients, and oxygen the most, such as the brain, heart, lungs, and large muscles. Thus, blood, nutrients, and oxygen are shifted away from other systems like the reproductive and digestive systems. Managing and reducing stress helps to properly balance the hormones that allow the body to focus on reproductive pathways in order to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
So, stress management is very important when dealing with infertility. I’ll be giving you some ideas on how to get started with better stress management in part two of this blog post next week.
Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD