If you’ve been trying to get pregnant longer than expected, you’ve probably wondered if stress could be at the root of your failed attempts.
Maybe you’ve even gotten the advice to “stop stressing” from your family members or friends. These comments aren’t always helpful, but they do make a point: stress can play a major role in your fertility.
Read on to learn how stress and infertility are linked, and what you can do to reduce stress and enhance your fertility naturally.
Does Stress Cause Infertility?
While the definitive link between high stress and infertility is still murky, what we do know is that couples who report feeling less stressed tend to have higher pregnancy success rates.
We also know that high stress leads to high serum levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When too much cortisol is flowing in your blood, your sex hormones (like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone) fall out of balance. In women, this can lead to infertility issues like anovulation and thin uterine linings. In men, hormone imbalance can negatively impact the quality and quantity of sperm.
Furthermore, excess stress causes inflammation. While inflammation is helpful during an acute infection or illness, the chronic, low-grade inflammation caused by stress can prevent a healthy pregnancy.
What does the Chinese medicine perspective have to say about stress and infertility?
According to Dr. Ko, “Stress has many effects on the liver. In Oriental medicine, the Liver generates blood. To get pregnant, it is important to make a lot of clean blood and have good circulation. If there is a lot of stress on the liver, it cannot make blood, and if blood is not produced, blood circulation is not smooth and it causes an irregular menstrual cycle and other issues. If the liver makes blood well without stress, and the blood flows well, pregnancy can go well.”
Stress also causes stagnation in the body, which weakens our ability to conceive. Just like a car wreck causes a backup on the highway, stagnation in the body prevents the smooth flow of qi and blood through the organ systems – including the reproductive system.
Without proper qi and blood flow, the reproductive organs don’t function properly. By removing the stagnation and its root cause (stress), we can restore the healthy flow and improve our chances of pregnancy.
The bottom line? At best, unresolved stress is an indirect link to infertility, and can make it harder to get pregnant naturally. The good news is that there are many effective stress relief techniques you can easily work into your daily life.
3 Ways to Reduce Stress and Prepare Your Body for Baby
Managing your stress is a smart step in the right direction towards a healthy pregnancy. When you reduce your stress, you’ll be able to make better decisions, reduce the burden of infertility treatments, and feel at ease throughout your fertility journey.
Here are three of the techniques we recommend most often to our fertility acupuncture patients:
1. Get moving.
Exercise is the body’s built-in antidote to stress. Studies show that those who exercise regularly have more emotional resilience to stress. For those trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments, exercise helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety while improving sleep and overall health.
Dr. Ko recommends walking as the best exercise for women trying to conceive. Try to do about 40 minutes of walking or other light exercise every day.
Along with helping you feel more in control and positive about your fertility journey, the boost in healthy blood flow from exercise also improves the health of your reproductive organs. Better circulation to the ovaries, uterus, or testes means more viable eggs, a more nutritive uterine lining, and healthier sperm.
Just remember: more is not always better. Overworking your body and sweating excessively can drain your vital energy, blood and yin fluids your body needs to stay fertile. Keep exercise moderate and balance with rest.
2. Use a mind-body stress relief practice daily.
Stress negatively affects us both mentally and physically. To regain your balance, you need a daily practice that helps calm the mind and reset the body. Not only does this help you feel more at ease in the moment, but it helps improve your overall resilience to stress and reverses the negative toll that past stress has had on the body. Studies show that participation in mind-body mindfulness programs also help improve your chances of pregnancy.
What types of mind-body exercises help reduce stress? Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from! Consider adding one or a few of these to your morning and evening routines:
- Guided Fertility Meditations or Visualizations
Meditations that quiet the fight-or-flight response and increase healthy blood flow to the reproductive organs reduce stress and boost fertility at the same time.
- Yoga Nidra and Body Scans
Yoga Nidra and body scans use meditative cues to help lull your body into a relaxed state. This practice naturally eases you into a restorative sleep and is particularly helpful if worrying thoughts about your fertility journey keep you up at night.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction uses mindfulness techniques to help understand your experiences compassionately and open-mindedly. Studies show those with fertility challenges who use MSBR notice a “reduction in emotional distress, pain perception, depression, and anxiety after 3-6 months of continued practice.”
3. Get acupuncture and herbal treatment for stress relief and fertility.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to improve female and male fertility. Part of why acupuncture is so successful in helping couples conceive is because it has powerful stress-relieving effects.
During an acupuncture session, the nervous system naturally shifts out of sympathetic mode (stress) and into parasympathetic mode (non-stress). In this mode, the body more easily returns to a state of healing and balance. Acupuncture also releases natural endorphins or “feel-good” chemicals that give us a sense of wellbeing.
For many couples, acupuncture is the most enjoyable part of their fertility treatments. Acupuncture does relieve stress, but more importantly, the treatment also works to enhance the body’s natural fertility by balancing hormones, improving circulation to the reproductive organs, reducing side effects of medical fertility treatments, and preparing the body for a healthy pregnancy.
We can combine treatments for stress and treatments for fertility and pregnancy together. Dr. Ko recommends coming three times per week – two times for fertility/pregnancy treatment and one time for a dedicated stress relief treatment.
Dr. Ko also recommends herbal medicine for most couples trying to conceive, especially when stress is at the root. Dr. Ko says, “When the uterus is warm, the fertilized egg can implant well. Herbal medicine warms the uterus and improves blood circulation. We use Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong and Huang Qi for herbs.”
Relieve Stress and Enhance Fertility at 120 Acupuncture Clinic
Whether you’re just starting to grow your family or you’ve been trying for a while, reducing stress can make your journey more enjoyable – and more successful!
At 120 Acupuncture Clinic, we’ve helped countless couples reach their dream of having a healthy baby through stress-relief techniques and fertility acupuncture for both men and women.
Contact us today to book your first fertility acupuncture appointment, or learn more about how acupuncture can help you improve your fertility and grow your family.