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Fertility & Stress: How Do They Factor?

By Eva Selhub, MD

Fertility & Stress: How Do They Factor?

When your brain senses that you’re under attack, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin (among others) are produced and begin turning off those bodily systems that aren’t in demand at that moment, including your digestive and reproductive systems.

The problem is your brain doesn’t distinguish between real or imagined threats, physical, psychological or emotional stress. The economic recession or your struggles to conceive are no different than a lion to your brain. The more you worry, the more you put your body in ongoing – even chronic – stress.

Research shows that chronic or ongoing stress can cause infertility and reproductive difficulties. On the flip side, managing stress improves fertility.

Think about it this way: Your body’s stress response system shuts down fertility when you feel unsafe, unsupported and in danger. So your goal is to feel the opposite: safe, supported, loved and nurtured. Here’s how:

Make comforting connections

Connect with those you love who can love you back. Support has been shown to heal all kinds of physical and psychological problems. Join a support group, spend time with friends. Reach out.
Allow yourself to get lost for a short while through your connection to a universe that is much larger than your own world. Spend time in nature or use your imagination to find images that are soothing to you.

Be loving and gentle toward yourself. This is the hardest of all, especially when your body is not cooperating in giving you what you so want. We live in a world where there is so much blame and shame that we can’t help beating ourselves up for not being good enough. So simply stop. Stop blaming and shaming yourself and start to love yourself. Cherish your body as the temple that a life would want to enter.

Invite love into your life

Choose to surround and fill yourself with love. Every time you feel bad, sad, frustrated, stressed, fearful or angry, stop and simply let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. Feel it and then release it by doing the following:

  • Close your eyes
  • Imagine the face of someone dear
  • Imagine that person smiling at you
  • Imagine the person’s eyes are looking deep into your eyes
  • Your eyes are now locked
  • You begin to breathe in sync
  • You both, in sync, inhale deeply and then when you cannot breathe in any more, exhale completely
  • Do this several times in rhythm
  • And begin to repeat these words to yourself: I am safe. I am loved. I am accepted as I am

Do this for at least 10 cycles. Your goal is to simply turn off the stress response, even if for just a short while. Lower those stress hormones and improve the love hormones that can help you feel happier, healthier and perhaps conceive a child.

About the author: Dr. Eva Selhub is a clinical instructor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a senior staff physician at the Benson Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.


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