In the UK, about a third of all infertility issues remain unexplained. This means that doctors are unable to work out why the couples affected are unable to become pregnant. Although infertility can be linked to many biological causes, such as low sperm count or PCOS, it appears that fertility issues may also be linked to negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. In fact, according to WebMD, stress may well be a factor in up to 30% of all infertility problems!
Emotions that may block your fertility
Although we don’t have much precise information regarding how stress affects fertility, we do know that it can have an impact on both men and women, making conceiving naturally more difficult. Moreover, stress can also affect those who are undergoing fertility treatment such as IVF or artificial insemination.
So how can stress or other negative emotions influence our fertility?
Well, studies have shown that stress disturbs the way the hypothalamus works, which is a region of the brain that helps control the pituitary gland and regulates your hormone levels. The hypothalamus also signals when it’s time for ovulation to begin.
As a result, being under stress can affect the menstrual cycle, provoke missed periods and ovulation disorders. You may ovulate later in your cycle or not at all (anovulation).
Other effects of stress include low sex drive, insomnia, depression, irritability, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and low sex drive. All of these are factors that can have a negative impact on fertility. Moreover, stress increases cortisol, which can cause infertility issues too.
It’s important however to underline that everyone is different and the way emotions affect people can vary considerably. Many men and women who are under a lot of stress will conceive without any problems.
The way our negative feelings can influence our daily lives
The way we react to our negative emotions may be more debilitating than the emotions themselves. In that respect, being under a lot of stress often leads us to become unhealthier in regards to our diet, how much exercise we do or the amount of sleep we get. Unfortunately, lots of these bad behaviours are linked to infertility. Here is what stress or frustration can lead to:
- Emotional eating. For instance, we eat more junk and comfort food (see more about this below)
- Sleep deprivation
- Smoking, or starting smoking again
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Drinking too much coffee
- Loss of interest in sex.
How emotional eating can disrupt your fertility
You will probably recognize yourself in this situation: when we are under a lot of stress or experiencing other negative emotions such as anger, sadness or frustration, we tend to eat either much less, or much more. Many of us tend to favour comfort food over green salads. These unhealthy habits are what we call emotional eating.
However, as you probably know, what you eat (as well as what you weigh) plays a role when it comes to conceiving. In fact, being constantly stressed can provoke weight gain or loss. And, unfortunately, studies have shown that being either underweight or overweight/obese can badly affect fertility.
Additionally, men’s fertility can also be impacted by an unhealthy BMI. Being underweight, overweight or obese can lead to poor sperm health, as well as other male fertility issues.
If you’re trying to conceive, both the male and female partner should try to have a balanced and varied diet and avoid junk food.
How to combat your negative feelings in order to finally become pregnant
Learn how to relax
Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, exercise and doing activities that you enjoy (for instance, painting or singing) can be incredibly relaxing. Rest assured, there is a solution for you out there. Just because meditation doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean that nothing will. You just need to find out what form of relaxation suits you best, whether this is playing an instrument, trying yoga or running.
Talk to your partner
You know the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved’, right? Therefore, don’t keep your emotions all to yourself. Share them with your partner! They might also be stressed due to their inability to make a baby. Additionally, it’s important to remember that communication is key to a successful relationship. So really, there are only good reasons for you to have this discussion with your loved one.
Make sure you’re getting support from people outside your relationship too. If you’re having a baby alone, this is even more crucial for you.
If you’re feeling stressed, angry or sad, don’t suffer alone. Talk to those you trust and who are good listeners, whether this is a friend or a member of your family. You can also have a chat with your GP or a counsellor if you need to. You are not alone, and there are people who are there for you. Don’t forget that!