If you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to have a baby for some time, you may be tired of hearing advice like, “Just relax! It’ll happen when you least expect it.” For those who have been trying for months or years, this well-meaning advice can feel anything but helpful. Is there any truth behind the idea that stress can have an impact on your fertility? Let’s explore how stress can affect your chances of conceiving, and what your next steps can be.

What Is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as not being able to become pregnant after regular trying without birth control after one year, for women under the age of 35. Infertility — or the inability to become pregnant — is common, affecting around 12% of couples in the U.S.

For individuals or couples who want to expand their family by having a baby, infertility can be a very difficult and draining situation. Over time, trying and failing to conceive can lead to stress. It’s clear that infertility causes stress — but can stress cause infertility?

Causes of Infertility

Infertility can be caused by a number of biological and physiological factors, including ovulation problems, blocked fallopian tubes or uterine issues. Factors like age, smoking, weight, diabetes, past STDs and hormone imbalances can also play a role.

Stress is among the factors believed to raise the chances of infertility. According to a recent study, women with high levels of the stress-related enzyme alpha-amylase statistically have a harder time conceiving. Those with the highest enzyme concentrations were 12% less likely to get pregnant than women with the lowest levels. This study included only women with no prior record of infertility. But why are stress and infertility connected?

How Stress Affects Infertility

Some experts suggest that stress and infertility can feed on themselves. That is, women who are having a difficult time getting pregnant can grow increasingly stressed about the situation, further decreasing the odds of conceiving.

Anxiety can cause your nervous system to release cortisol, a stress hormone, which kicks in your body’s flight or fight response. This can shut down bodily systems — like the reproductive system — leading to delayed menstrual cycles and affecting your reproductive organs.

Stress can also drive us toward unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms. You may be tempted to start smoking, drinking more heavily, drinking more coffee, over-sleeping, eating poorly or losing interest in sex. Over time, these habits can play a part in decreasing the likelihood of getting or sustaining a pregnancy.

Struggling With Infertility? Contact Western Fertility Institute Today

If you’re stressed about infertility — or concerned that stress may be causing your infertility — you’re not alone. As the research shows, 1 in 8 couples have difficulty conceiving. If you are one of these couples, it may be time to seek assistance to understand the causes of your infertility and take the next step toward growing your family.

We’re here to help — simply reach out to Western Fertility Institute to schedule an appointment.