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Is Stress Affecting Your Fertility?

Sometimes getting pregnant takes longer than some would have hoped. This is especially true for women who are older than 35. And it can be a very stressful process. Unfortunately, it’s a tough cycle to get into because higher stress levels may make women less likely to conceive. Read on to learn more about how stress is affecting your fertility and how to manage stress.

Stress: The Body’s Monkey Wrench

Doctors have theorized about the possibility of a link between stress and fertility for quite some time. However, a study published early last year in the Oxford journal, Human Reproduction, actually supports this theory. In the study, researchers found that women who had high levels of a stress biomarker were more at risk of being infertile.

Stress can affect the hypothalamus, which is the gland in the brain that regulates appetites and emotions as well as the hormones that control the body’s ovulation. This makes women ovulate late or sometimes not at all.

“Stress, if very significant, can cause women to have difficulty ovulating,” said Dr. Larry Barmat, an OB/GYN who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Abington Reproductive Medicine. “Severe stressful situations will cause irregular ovulation or prevent ovulation and reduce one’s fertility.”

This is still a tricky situation to navigate because everyone reacts to stress differently. “Someone may not appear stressed overtly, but internally, if you measure stress hormones, it can be high, and vice versa,” Dr. Barmat said. No matter how it is affecting a woman’s fertility, it is still important that stress is managed.

Managing Stress

Trying to have a baby and going through fertility tests and therapies can be stressful by itself. Not to mention all of life’s other stresses outside of having a baby—work stress, emotional stress, martial and family stress.

“In general, the American population is a relatively stressed population because everyone’s working very hard,” Dr. Barmat said. “There are a number of external and internal factors that are weighing heavily on patients.”

The good news is that there are ways to manage stress, and learning how to deal with your stress is a skill that will benefit you throughout your life. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation have proven to be successful in other health situations, and are harmless to try. Talking to someone about your stress is very helpful too. Seek help from a trusted friend or family member, or talk to your doctor about finding a psychologist.

Dr. Barmat and other doctors at Abington Health will help stressed hopeful mothers by offering counseling by social workers and psychologists, support groups, and more. They also refer patients for acupuncture, which helps some women, and music therapy, which they found helpful in reducing stress and improving pregnancy rates according to a study conducted at Abington Memorial Hospital.

For more information on pregnancy and getting pregnant after 35, tune in to the next Health Chat on May 4th with Dr. Mara Thur, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Abington Health.  She will answer questions and give valuable information about getting pregnant after 35. The chat will be moderated Lu Ann Cahn, director of Career Services at Temple University’s School of Media and Communications. Register and ask questions ahead of time here.