Managing Stress for Fertility
We know that infertility can cause stress but can stress cause infertility? It’s a chicken or egg situation. Which comes first? I happen to think that, yes, stress can and does contribute to fertility issues through a big, complicated cycle called HPA axis dysfunction. You don’t need to know all the details (unless you’re really curious) but just know that chronic stress can cause your adrenal glands to steal nutrients away from your reproductive hormone production. For this reason, it’s important to have some intentional strategies put in place for lowering stress.
The relaxation response is a state of deep rest. This is the direct opposite of the fight-or-flight response, the physical response to danger. When one is frightened or threatened, the body releases adrenalin, causing blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rates to increase. These changes allow one either to fight harder against the danger or run faster away from it. However, our bodies and minds cannot discriminate between physical danger and psychological stress; thus, we also experience the fight-or-flight response when we are stressed.
When you elicit the relaxation response, your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rates decrease. You feel more relaxed and less anxious. Individuals who elicit the relaxation response on a regular basis report that they not only feel more relaxed and less anxious during the actual relaxation, but also feel calmer throughout the day. Those who elicit the relaxation response during medical procedures report less anxiety, pain and medication use.
You can elicit the relaxation response through a wide variety of relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation and imagery.
- Progressive muscle relaxation involves progressively tightening and then relaxing your muscles, either from head to toe or vice versa.
- Deep breathing involves breathing slowly from your belly, like sighing deeply. Or try my favorite 4-7-8 breathing
- Meditation requires focusing on a word or phrase as you breathe.
- And imagery can mean a variety of things, ranging from imagining a pleasant safe spot to focusing on your body.