Is your job stressing you out? Is the pace of life with work and family running you ragged? Stress is ever present and it could be this constant stress that we are under that is leading many couples to have problems with fertility.
If you read the first post on stress & your cycle you will recall that stress has a huge impact on your cycle. As we learned, stress can affect your cycle in many ways including delayed ovulation, no ovulation, longer cycles, shorter luteal phases and in some cases missed periods. All of these irregularities will lead to challenges with fertility.
Stress hormones disrupt hormone release from each level of the reproductive hormones. In women, these hormones disrupt egg maturation, ovulation, and the physiological changes that support embryo implantation, placenta formation, and pregnancy. A lot of this disruption comes from the hormone cortisol.
When we are under a lot of stress we have elevated cortisol. This constantly elevated cortisol fatigues our adrenals and causes HPA axis dysfunction. Adrenaline increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, blood flow to muscles and metabolic rate. It helps get our body ready to deal with real danger. These same hormones shut down reproduction, digestion and growth, systems not needed for the response to an immediate threat. Cortisol will slow and stop functions that are considered to be “non-essential” for the body. The menstrual cycle is deemed unnecessary so cortisol tells the brain to stop releasing the reproductive hormones estrogen & progesterone.
With increased stress studies have shown that women ovulate up to 20% fewer eggs, and they often ovulate late or not at all due to the lack of hormone release. There are also indications that implantation of fertilized eggs can be reduced during times of extreme stress. There are proteins in the uterine lining that facilitate the embryo attaching itself and there needs to be adequate blood supply available within the uterine site. Under extreme stress when cortisol and epinephrine are being released in high amounts, blood flow is being altered and redirected. This can interfere with normal implantation.
Cortisol will upset the rhythm of your luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion. This is the hormone that triggers your ovulation. When LH secretion is not timed properly, there is a strong chance that the egg destined for ovulation will not be mature at the time ovulation, or will be too mature, because the LH surge that triggers the follicle containing the egg to rupture is poorly timed.
Chronically elevated or unstable cortisol levels will cause havoc with your blood sugar system. Excessive or unstable insulin causes abnormal follicle growth. In fact, it is one of the drivers of PCOS — a condition where ovulation is either rare or absent. Just like anything else, there’s a spectrum and even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PCOS, your stress may still be affecting your ovulation enough to cause problems with your eggs.
Stress also prevents the actions of a key reproductive hormone known as gonadotropin (GnRH) from releasing. When GnRH is inhibited it does not trigger the pituitary gland to release the other reproductive hormones. Some research is also showing that stress also causes an increase in gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), which further impedes the release of GnRH.
With stress reduction many couples find it easier to conceive. How many times have you heard stories about couples that have gone through failed IVF multiple times and devastated by the process they decide to take a break, and then they suddenly find themselves pregnant much to their surprise? This has been explained by the decrease in stress once the pressure and stress of IVF is removed. A decrease in stress may enhance proteins in the uterine lining that are involved in implantation. A decrease may also increase the blood flow to the uterus, which affects conception.
If you are struggling with Stress & Fertility here are 3 recommendations to helps support you.
- Acupuncture – acupuncture has been shown to offset the effects of stress through the stimulation of beta-endorphins. It helps you relax and restore FSH levels.
- Vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 has been shown to help boost endometrial lining, helps with regular ovulation and helps fertilize eggs. B vitamins are depleted during times of stress so supplementing is important.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C has been known to help increase hormone levels, increase fertility and lengthen the luteal phase. As with B vitamins, vitamin C is also depleted during times of stress so it is very important to supplement to support your body.
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