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Could Stress Affect Your Ability to Conceive?
Hyacinth Nicole Browne, MD posted:
There are no definitive studies that link stress to infertility, but when your body is faced with certain chronic stressors (i.e. chronic illness or the loss of a loved one) it does its best to conserve energy in order to allow us to carry out our daily functions. This "protective" mechanism can sometimes limit our ability to reproduce, and it can cause some women to ovulate later or not at all. Although the exact mechanisms by which stress can affect fertility are unknown, it is believed that the stress hormone, cortisol , may alter communication between the brain and the ovaries to release eggs.

A lot of what we know about the effects of stress on fertility comes from research on in vitro fertilization. Studies have shown that infertile women under a lot of stress have lower success rates during their in vitro fertilization cycles (i.e. lower egg yield and pregnancy rates) than women under less stress. Furthermore, when stress reduction methods are implemented in this population (i.e. acupuncture) pregnancy rates have been shown to be higher.

Trying to get pregnant can be nerve racking, especially if prior attempts have failed, and finding ways to relieve stress may be helpful. This is a great time to take up a new hobby, exercise, try yoga, read a good book, or just shop. Anything goes here, as long as it helps you not to obsess over your struggles with fertility. This may also be a good time to share your concerns and experiences with your partner, friends, or a trained professional, so that you do not feel as though you are going through this alone.

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