Fertility and Stress

Stress is more than just a psychological phenomenon, it can have far reaching consequences on your health and general wellbeing, and can even affect your fertility.

What is stress?

Wherever you work or study, and whatever part of your life you happen to be in, you are probably familiar with the unpleasant and unwanted effects of stress. Strictly speaking though, what is stress? While it varies hugely from person to person, generally speaking stress is a consequence of particularly trying or demanding circumstances which can manifest in anyone of a number of different ways.

Stress’s effects on your mental state and mood typically involve unusual feelings of irritation, aggression, or depression. Different people will experience it in different ways, for some these feelings might not be as noticeable as physical signs like a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headache, high blood pressure, and loss of libido.

What does stress have to do with fertility?

To say that the effects of stress on fertility is well understood would be misleading, but while the direct mechanisms are not understood, there is definitely a link between high levels of stress and infertility. At present it is thought that hormones may be a major part of this connection. Fertility in both men and women depends on certain levels of hormones like testosterone (in men) and oestrogen (in women) at certain times, and we know that chances in these levels can cause infertility. When you are stressed your body produces a number of stress hormones, like cortisol, which disrupt the natural balance of hormones needed for healthy fertility.

Stress has been known to delay ovulation, an important part of the female menstruation when it comes to getting pregnant. It can affect male sperm production as well, so de-stressing is important for both you and your partner. Unfortunately the process of conceiving can be a bit stressful if you have been trying for a while and haven’t had any success. It’s a bit of a cycle, particularly as a common effect of stress is a reduced sex drive which makes it even less likely that you will get pregnant.

What can I do to combat stress and increase my fertility?

Everyone is different, and you will find that certain methods of stress relief are more effective than others. Some commonly used relaxation techniques include taking time off work or going on a holiday, improving your diet and regularly exercising are both great ways of relaxing and getting healthier, both of which make it more likely that you will conceive. Seeing a specialist about your fertility can put to ease any concerns you may have about your fertility, and for some counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy, psychological techniques which confront the source of your stress, are invaluable for both long term health and fertility.


Many pregnant women use yoga as a form of relaxation, it is likely that your local yoga class will have sessions aimed specifically at pregnant women. The benefits of yoga are that as well as a form of relaxation, it provides you with light exercise, the opportunity to meet other mothers, and also gives you something to do and look forward to.

Specialist antenatal yoga will provide you with relaxation techniques that you can use in sessions with other mothers, that you can use at home, and that you can even use post pregnancy.


Counselling services will give you the opportunity to talk to someone not involved in the pregnancy, you will be able to voice any concerns that you have about the pregnancy, the birth and about becoming a parent. You may also want to attend sessions with a partner, providing you with an environment where you can openly talk about how you feel and learn about how they feel too. Often during pregnancy, couples may feel stressed about the relationship that they have with their partner, particularly if there are complications in the pregnancy.

Acupuncture and hypnotherapy

This can regulate your cycle and reduce stress. If you look into using acupuncture you should look for a therapist who specialises in fertility and pregnancy. Hypnotherapy aims to increase relaxation in order to increase chances of pregnancy. It is claimed that hypnotherapy will affect the hypothalamus and it is the hypothalamus that is responsible for the production of hormones necessary to ovulation. Cognitive behavioural therapy can also relieve anxiety, some experts also believe that thinking more positively as a result of cognitive therapy can aid fertility or help you and your baby to stay healthy.

Physical Health And Stress

A poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute to feeling stressed. Wholegrain foods, and other foods containing vitamin B can help to ease stress, as can light exercise. Water sports, such as swimming and water aerobics are particular good for pregnancy women as the water will support you bump.

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