Dr Sweta Gupta Clinical Director and Senior Consultant, Fertility Solutions, Medicover Fertility
Today life is full of stress. We are all on a tight schedule with lots to do and little time. We may or may not get it all done but it definitely causes us great stress. Stress is not all there is to it – worries and tension come along with stress. All of this creates an emotional burden. Does being stressed help you to get more done? Does it make life easier? Whether you get stressed or not you are still going to accomplish the same amount. So why not cool down, clear your mind and do what you have to do without the emotional pressure of stress. Sometimes it is easier to do a job without the additional weight of the stress.
Stress is a common emotion that occupies a large portion of our daily lives. The fast pace that the world is functioning at today puts pressure on us to try and keep up. People try and utilise their every waking moment to do something. They have long lists of things to be done and sometimes it is more than one can actually get done. Times of rest and relaxation are replaced by TV and a bombardment of negative happenings around the world. The media rarely reports anything uplifting or positive. People watch TV as a form of relaxation but instead it fills your mind with more turmoil as your thoughts turn to the strife raging all over the world.
There is no way to judge just how stressed a person is. Some people talk about their stress and what they are going through. These people are either looking for a solution to combat their stress or they just want to get the message across that they should not be bothered with anything as they already have more than their fair share to deal with. There are other people who do not talk about their stress or what they are going through. Some people tend to have a habit of keeping their emotions bottled up. They see no point in talking about it. They believe that they can find a solution themselves while others feel that is just the way life is and they have to bear with it.
Stress is not a natural part of life. It can harm you in multiple ways and should be looked at like a disease. It is not something that will go away by itself. And while it lingers it is causing your body great harm. Stress can lead to all kinds of health ailments including heart disease, strokes, stomach problems, back problems, infertility and numerous others conditions. It is a problem that needs a solution in the form of a relaxation technique.
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT FERTILITY?
Are you wondering how stress can affect fertility? After all it is just a reaction by the body and a manner of a thought process. That is true. Stress is mainly in the brain and the brain controls the functions of the rest of the body. Stress prevents the hypothalamus from releasing the hormones required for the ovaries to stimulate the eggs to mature and for ovulation to take place. Women who are stressed will find that their menstrual cycle is not very regular. This also affects your ovulation date hence it will become difficult to calculate when exactly you will be ovulating and which are the fertile days for you to have sex to conceive. These irregularities in your fertility cycle are due to stress.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is produced by the body when it is under stress. Excess cortisol can cause a person to gain weight, increase blood pressure, hamper ovulation and have many other unwanted ill effects on your health.
When people are stressed they feel justified to indulge in negative habits such as smoking and drinking and sometimes even take harmful drugs to feel better. Stress encourages you to indulge in injurious activities. It also makes you careless and reckless.
Alpha-amylase is an enzyme that is found in high levels in women who are stressed. This enzyme is produced by your body when you are anxious. High levels of alpha-amylase can prevent you from getting pregnant. Women with higher levels of stress have been found to be less likely to conceive than those with not a care in the world.
So the next time someone tells you to just relax and let the pregnancy happen when it does and not be stressed about it, don’t get perturbed. They are absolutely right, though they may not realise just how perfect their advice is. It is probably the best advice you will ever receive.
Researchers have discovered that up to 30% of infertility can be due to stress. Stress affects your body’s ability to produce sperm and hampers ovulation. The only way to get around that is through relaxation techniques. When couples suffer from unexplained fertility, one of the factors that are causing this problem could be stress. But there is no way to identify it for sure. Some doctors do, however, prescribe distressing activities for these patients. And it has helped in many cases.
Women undergoing fertility treatment can also be affected by stress. Research has found that women who are stressed or emotionally disturbed have a lower success rate with IVF treatment. They have fewer eggs for retrieval and the uterus is less receptive of the embryo that is transferred during the IVF procedure, hence there is a reduced chance of implantation.
SEX AND STRESS
While sex is a stress buster it can also help you to get pregnant. Having regular sex will not only eliminate stress from your life, but it will build the bonds of your relationship and keep you close to each other.
The down side is that stress reduces libido. So couples who are stressed out are usually not very inclined towards having sex. This can be a very major drawback. Couples who understand that sex can actually do them good in a number of different ways, would do well to make an effort towards having sex at least twice a week.
Sex is not just good for reducing stress and keeping the emotional ties strong; it is also good for the heart and has a number of other different health benefits. So next time, think of the health benefits of sex before you decide.
EFFECTS OF STRESS ON PREGNANCY
Stress has many adverse effects on pregnancy. Some research even says that it can cause abnormalities and deformities in the foetus. There is no proof of the effects of stress on pregnancy, but your doctor will advise you to remain calm and positive during the course of your pregnancy. They advise you to stay away from traumatic events and stress situations. Try and stay happy, do things you like to do, listen to good music, watch happy movies etc.
Does stress cause miscarriage: There is not much evidence of this but the general belief is that excessive amounts of stress could lead to a miscarriage. Usually it is a chromosomal abnormally that leads to a miscarriage especially in the first trimester but there is no evidence to rule out stress from causing a miscarriage. At the end of the day it is worth taking precautionary measures rather than risking a miscarriage.
There is not much evidence on the negative impact of stress on fertility or health in general. Initially doctors had ruled out the fact that stress could affect pregnancy, but recent research has proved that stress does have a negative impact and should be avoided or treated with stress reducing techniques.
TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE STRESS
Over the years stress has become a big issue. We have wellness centres that focus solely on relieving stress. There are many different techniques to reduce stress. When you are planning to get pregnant whether naturally or through IVF you need to destress. These are some of the more common things that you can incorporate into your everyday life to reduce the stress levels:
Get positive: Keeping a positive frame of mind is absolutely essential for pregnancy as well as to combat stress. Stress is a negative emotion. When you make an effort to stay positive your stress will automatically begin to roll away. Positivity infuses your body with health. Your brain and hypothalamus releases the right hormones and all your internal organs begin to function correctly. This restores health and wellbeing into your body and your fertility improves.
Exercise: When you exercise your body releases endorphins which infuse positivity. Even if you had negative thoughts plaguing you when you began to exercise, after a while you will find that your thoughts have shifted to more positive ones. Exercising does not mean lifting heavy weights at the gym. You can walk or jog or even try aerobics or yoga. The idea is to get active and generate those good endorphins.
Eat health food: Eating food that is good for the heart and the brain are good but there are foods that are specifically good for stress. So it is time to make some adjustments to your diet. When you eat healthy you automatically feel good, because you know you are doing the right thing. When you eat stuff that is not good for you the guilty conscience begins to play and other negative emotions are fuelled by this to come into the forefront making you feel irritable and moody. Before you know it your mind set has become negative.
Hobbies: The one thing that can really uplift the mood is spending sometime on your hobby. Try and take some time out during the week for your hobbies. Whether it is painting or gardening or anything else start doing it again. Hobbies have an uncanny way to bring you out of yourself and make you the person you want to be. It helps to keep your mood and thoughts positive.
Sports: Playing outdoor sports can be really good for you and it is a great way to destress. It shifts your thoughts and focus on something else. It reminds you that there is more to life and gives you something to look forward to other than your career and getting that promotion or completing that project on time.
Pamper yourself: Every woman can do with some pampering. Change your schedule to fit in a few hours a week at the beauty parlour where you can relax and get pampered. There is no other place that can make you feel so good like a beauty parlour or a spa. For those few hours the world ceases to exist and you are the queen with people waiting on you hand and foot.
There are many things that one can do to reduce stress. Self-indulgence is a good method but just ensure that it does not involve something that is bad for you like eating too much chocolate.
FOOD TO REDUCE STRESS
Believe it or not you can actually regulate your stress levels by eating food that have an effect on your mood. There are some foods that can enhance your mood and make you feel good and positive.
• Green leafy vegetables: The high content of folate in these vegetables is not just good for your fertility but is also a mood enhancer. Leafy vegetables encourage the body to generate neurotransmitters that regulate the mood. It also encourages the production of dopamine and serotonin. Studies reveal that people who eat green leafy vegetables regularly have a calmer and happier disposition.
• Blueberries & blackberries: These two berries are very rich in antioxidants. They help with the production of dopamine which in turn helps to regulate the mood. They are also very good for your health.
• Chocolate: Just the thought of chocolate can enhance the mood. Chocolate has more to it than just a psychological effect. Chocolate helps to produce anandamide which is a neurotransmitter that blocks out depression and pain. Chocolate contains chemicals that help to prolong the nice feeling initiated by the anandamide. So you feel good long after you have eaten chocolate.
• Avocado: Also known as one of the superfoods, avocado is very rich in vitamins and minerals. It regulates your sugar levels and keeps your mood swings at bay. It helps you to maintain a calm mind even during stressful times.
• Omega 3: Found in fatty fish like salmon, cod, sardines, and also in nuts like almonds and walnuts, is an anti-depressant. Omega 3 from fish also helps to keep your spirits up and make you happy.
• Sunshine: This is not a food but an excellent mood enhancer. A certain amount of sun a day will keep your mood elevated and also give you a dose of health with some Vitamin D. Researchers have found that those who do not see the sun can be very critical and moody. Looking at the sun of feeling some of the sunrays on your body does wonders for the mood.
It is time to change your diet to a stress relieving one. There are no particular food that can induce stress but these food can help to lower it.
GETTING PREGNANT WITH STRESSFUL LIVES
With the current scenario there are not many escape routes for stress. Your boss cannot bear to see you at peace. He overburdens you or makes impossible claims from you until you become a slave of the system and live in a constant stressed out zombie mode.
If you are planning to start a family the first step is to distress. The quickest way is to take a short vacation away from your life. Just the two of you, without other family members, go to a place where you don’t know anyone. Switch of your phones and all communication devices. Forget that the rest of the world and your office even exist. You need to do this right before your start fertility treatment. Come back from your vacation refreshed with a clear mind all ready to become parents.
Why do you need to go on a vacation? The vacation will help to restore your fertility levels a little. Your ovulation and sperm count will improve. Imagine what a state your internals are in with all the negativity from the stress you are going through. Stress can not only make you infertile but it can make you sick.