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The Link Between Stress and Infertility: How Yoga Can Help?

Yoga For Stress And Infertility

Yoga For Stress And Infertility - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

“Just relax and let it happen.” When you’re struggling to get pregnant, this is probably the least helpful advice you’ll be given… and you’re bound to hear it over and over again.

We all wish it was that easy, but the truth is, infertility is a common and heartbreaking issue for many couples.

Stress and anxiety are also very common and tough to manage anytime. But when you’re trying to start a family, stress and infertility combine to become an even more complex issue. Understanding the link between the two is even more complicated.

Chronic stress and anxiety can impact fertility, possibly amplifying any health issues you’re already experiencing while trying to conceive. Not to mention the impact that infertility itself can have on your mental health.

Let’s take a look at what the research says about the link between stress and infertility and how yoga can help.

How Stress Affects Your Body?

In times of stress, your body triggers something called the fight or flight response. This activates the release of stress hormones like cortisol. This hormonal release can trigger changes in the body, including a faster heart rate, headache, and shortness of breath.

In the case of extreme stress, any body system that isn’t required for survival shuts down. Sometimes, overwhelming stress can even shut down activity in the systems which control the reproductive system.

In essence, the connection between the brain and ovaries may be delayed or even absent.

This can cause irregular or missed ovulation and periods. Your body knows which functions are necessary for survival, and reproduction in times of extreme stress is not in your body’s best interest.

Infertility-Related Stress Can Make Things Worse

Unfortunately, stress related to infertility issues can overlap with pre-existing chronic or long-term stress. Studies show that this extreme state of stress can cause symptoms that are similar to the distress associated with serious illness.

Depression and anxiety are also very common in women who are struggling with infertility. Often, these issues increase as more and more time passes without a successful pregnancy. So, stress not only contributes to infertility, but it is also a common side effect of infertility issues.

How Stress Impacts Fertility

Stress Impacts Fertility
Research into the link between stress and infertility is ongoing, but here’s what we know so far.

Studies[1] show that women with high levels of stress have lower levels of estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone. During the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle, they also have higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone. These combined effects increase the likelihood of anovulation (the absence of ovulation).

Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which can further interfere with processes that are required for ovulation. That being said, delayed or absent ovulation due to stress is usually temporary and should resume once stress levels return to normal, as long as there isn’t some other contributing health issue.

Stress and IVF Outcomes

There is also some evidence that indicates stress may have a negative impact on IVF outcomes. Research[2] shows that increased levels of cytokines (stress-related proteins) reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy with IVF.

In fact, women with very high levels of stress had a lower conception rate after undergoing IVF treatments for an entire year.

Other Ways Stress May Affect Your Fertility

  • Stress can reduce your libido, leading to infrequent intercourse and fewer opportunities for conception.
  • Stress can trigger the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. The compounds could reduce blood flow to the reproductive system and reduce the chances of successful implantation.
  • Stress triggers the release of the natural killer cell NK[3] by the immune system, which may be connected to infertility.

How Yoga Can Help with Infertility

Here are some ways yoga can help with infertility when practiced regularly while trying to conceive.

1. Eases Stress and Anxiety

Eases Stress
Incorporating yoga and other mindfulness activities like deep breathing into your regular routine can lower the levels of stress-related hormones in the body.

2. Improves Body Strength and Condition

Yoga is a safe and gentle form of exercise that strengthens the muscles and improves flexibility while assisting with healthy weight management. Excess weight can play a role in infertility issues.

3. Supports Healthy Hormone Balance

Stress contributes to hormonal imbalances, making yoga a useful tool for supporting healthy hormone balance. When combined with herbs for fertility, regular yoga practice may also support the interaction between hormones and the brain, which further improves reproductive and sexual function.

4. Supports Sperm Production

Low sperm count is a common issue for couples struggling with infertility. Men who incorporate yoga into their daily routine may experience less stress and anxiety, which supports sperm production. Yoga may also support male reproductive health overall.

Best Types of Yoga to Support Fertility

There are many different types of yoga and each one has its own benefits. Hot yoga, ashtanga, and vinyasa are more vigorous, while Hatha, Iyengar, and restorative yoga are more gentle. Most experts recommend choosing a more gentle form of yoga while trying to conceive.

Best Yoga Poses to Try When You’re Trying to Conceive

The following poses are generally considered safe and gentle and are good choices for reducing stress and supporting fertility. Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new routine, in case he or she has any recommendations based on your personal health history.

1. Restorative Poses

Restorative Poses
Restorative poses are fantastic for easing stress and anxiety. They’re also low-impact and focus on deep breathing which could lower cortisol levels. Legs Up The Wall and Reclining Bound Angle Pose are excellent restorative poses for beginners.

2. Flexibility Poses

Flexibility poses can help with fertility by stretching the muscles around the reproductive organs, pelvis, and hips. Cat/Cow, Extended Triangle, and Frog are good flexibility poses to incorporate into your daily routine.

3. Stimulating Poses

Stimulating poses are a good choice for boosting circulation in the reproductive organs. Stimulating the uterus and ovaries may also improve the chances of conception. Back Rolls, Bridge, and Cobra are good options for stimulating the reproductive region.

The Takeaway

Although we don’t yet have a complete picture of all the ways stress can impact fertility, it’s clear that it does play a major role. That said, stress and anxiety are normal, especially when you’re struggling with infertility issues. But that doesn’t make them any less frustrating or uncomfortable.

Finding healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety is always a good idea. Even if your stress levels are just moderate, practicing yoga can be extremely beneficial for your mental health.

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