Are you too stressed to conceive?

Increasingly my patients complain of being “stressed about being stressed!” They’re concerned that stress will affect their chances of having a baby.

There are statistics out there to suggest that stress does have a negative effect on fertility. A recent study in America of 501 couples over 12 months suggested there was a 29% reduction in fertility and a twofold increase of infertility in the couples who demonstrated high levels of stress (Lynch et al, 2014).

Actually stress in moderate amounts can improve our performance and keeps us focused.

Actually stress in moderate amounts can improve our performance and keeps us focused. However, when this is sustained over a period of time, our bodies adopt a ‘fight or flight’ response, which prompts the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline into the blood stream. This is a survival reflex.

Emma Cannon

The problem is that if we’re trying to fight on too many fronts we’re in this state all the time. This is what I see frequently in clinic; the body is not able to relax and go back to normal because we’re running insanely busy lives and trying to juggle too much, which can lead to burnout and may affect our ability to conceive. When you’re trying to conceive, it is essential that your body is allowed to fall back into a relaxed state so that basic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion can return to normal.

Look at it this way; fertility is a peripheral need for the body it is not essential for its survival. Of course as a species we need to be able to conceive but not as an individual. So if the body is under stress the message goes to the brain that this is not the optimal time to conceive and that you are in danger.  We know that extreme stress can stop women from ovulating, but more and more pregnancies are failing to implant despite excellent embryo quality.

Stress can ruin your love life too; reducing libido and causing performance anxiety all of which can become divisive in a relationship.

Stress can ruin your love life too; reducing libido and causing performance anxiety all of which can become divisive in a relationship. Despite both men and women deciding to become parents together, it is often the woman who is driving the decision. It’s her body going through it and so she is more prone to internalising the anxiety and seek advice then things don’t happen.

This can both lead to a solution and exacerbate the problem. There are countless experts, websites and other services out there to support those trying to conceive but too much information can lead to obsession and anxiety. I truly believe that information overload is a cause of mush of the stress I witness in clinic.

There are two main sources of stress: external stress that we often cannot avoid and internal stress that is emotional and is of our own making or from past conflicts that have not been addressed.  Both kinds can disturb the body’s energetic system and need to be acknowledged.

Fertility is a receptive act and our bodies need to be in the right place to receive a pregnancy. You can have a great quality egg but the body and mind need to be willing and open.

10 tips to combat fertility stress

Make a plan

3 months, 6 months, 12 months. Time is of the essence here so make it count. Put together a strategy to rid your life of as much stress as possible. Take more time to relax, go on holiday, and try the tips listed below.

Be positive

Set time aside everyday to focus on your health and fertility in a positive way. Instead of obsessing and feeling anxious think about why you want a baby. This way you’ll start thinking emotionally rather than from you head.

Take up yoga

Chose a gentle restorative form, nothing too hot or too extreme

Try acupuncture

This releases endorphins which are the bodies natural response to stress. Regular acupuncture will off set some of the effects of stress hormones.

Get counseling

Talk to someone if you are have emotional issues that might be under mining your happiness.

Ban yourself from Google

There is so much anxiety and obsession generated by too much information

Nurture your sex life

Don’t turn it into part of your schedule of things to do – and don’t reply on devices to tell you when to make-love. Our research revealed that couples who routinely use ovulation predictors have less sex than those who don’t.

Find a trusted team

Seek out good professional people to work with and stick with them. If you ask 10 people the same question you are likely to get 10 different answers. So pick your team and trust them.

Turn away from stress

When faced with a stressful situation; ask yourself “what’s more important my health or this stress?”

Be more receptive

This requires letting go of control and learning to be more open and even vulnerable. It’s scary but it is very important to let go of achieving and focus on receiving.


 Emma Cannon's book
  • Emma Cannon’s book Fertility Family is available on 
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