For many couples, starting a family is a cherished dream. But unfortunately, the journey to parenthood can be a challenging one.
In fact, up to 1 in 5 American women struggles with infertility. There are many possible causes of infertility — and one factor that you shouldn’t overlook is stress. Mental stress can have a very real impact on your physical health, and it could be affecting your fertility more than you realize.
- Michael Coppa, MD, and our team specialize in preconception planning and infertility care, and we’re here to help you understand how stress affects fertility. Here’s what you need to know.
The impact of stress on fertility
Stress is your body’s response to challenges, both internal and external. It's a complex physiological and psychological reaction that occurs when you experience a demanding, threatening, or overwhelming situation.
Stress is normal, but it has a profound impact on your body.
Stress triggers a cascade of physical and mental responses, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol, heightened alertness, and changes in behavior. And if you experience chronic stress, it can begin to affect your fertility.
High cortisol levels can disrupt the balance of other hormones, including key reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. A hormonal imbalance can interfere with ovulation and your menstrual cycle and make it more difficult for you to conceive.
Stress can also cause irregular menstrual cycles. Inconsistent periods or irregular ovulation make it challenging to predict your fertile window for conception. Sometimes, stress can cause anovulation, a condition in which your ovaries fail to release mature eggs.
For men, chronic stress can affect sperm. Low sperm production or quality can reduce your chances of successful fertilization.
And last but not least, the emotional toll of infertility can create a vicious cycle. Struggling to get pregnant can be a major source of stress and anxiety, which may only lead to further fertility issues.
The benefits of preconception planning
Stress can have a serious impact on your fertility, but the good news is that taking a proactive approach improves your chances of conception. If you’re looking to start a family, preconception planning is a great place to start.
Dr. Coppa works with you to assess your health and lifestyle to optimize your chances of a successful pregnancy. We start by reviewing your medical history, looking for any preexisting conditions that may affect your fertility.
We discuss your menstrual periods, as well as any gynecologic conditions you may have.
Tracking your menstrual cycle helps you identify your fertile window every month. Irregular periods or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis can make getting pregnant more difficult.
If you've been using birth control, stop well in advance of trying to conceive. The type of birth control you used and the time it takes for your fertility to return to normal can vary, and we’re here to help you understand what to expect.
We also cover lifestyle factors — including stress — to make sure you are physically and emotionally ready for pregnancy. Depending on your needs, Dr. Coppa may recommend stress management techniques like meditation.
If you’re planning to get pregnant soon, don’t overlook the role stress plays in your life. Schedule a preconception planning appointment with Dr. Coppa to learn more about preparing both your body and your mind.
Call our offices in Cranston, Providence, and Smithfield, Rhode Island, or request an appointment online to get started.