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Stress and Fertility: Old Wives’ Tale or a Problem to Worry About?
The relationship between stress and fertility is a common topic in the Trying to Conceive (TTC) community. It can be a sore spot for many frustrated couples. Those who, for a long time, have been hoping for a healthy pregnancy and a beautiful baby.
“You’re too stressed. Try to relax, and you’ll get pregnant”.
If you’re having trouble conceiving, you might have heard this advice more than once. While it’s usually well-meaning, it doesn’t help. The last thing you need is to start stressing about your stress.
So how do you decrease your stress? Is it possible when your trying-to-conceive journey has been anything but easy?
And is stress really the cause of your fertility issues?
We’re going to explore the impact of stress on fertility and what you can do to decrease your stress and improve your chances of conceiving.
Luckily, there are natural methods rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that have helped my clients conceive and may help you, too. Even couples who struggled for a long time have had success with these remedies.
First, let’s talk about the research behind stress and fertility.
What Does the Research Say?
No matter which way you look at it, it’s clear that your mind and body are intricately connected. The health of one affects the health of the other.
TCM is effective because it focuses on nurturing this connection. It recognizes the role that stress plays in infertility in both men and women.
In women, stress can cause fluctuations in hormone levels. It can also interrupt ovulation by affecting the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovarian axis (HPOA)². The HPOA controls reproduction through the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries. Studies have found that certain TCM methods, like acupuncture, help regulate HPOA function.
In another study on stress and fertility, female participants’ saliva was collected to test cortisol and alpha-amylase levels. These are both biomarkers of stress. The results showed that women with a higher concentration of alpha-amylase were almost twice as likely to experience infertility⁵.
Studies on the effects of Chinese medicine have found a similar relationship between stress and fertility.
Many TCM methods, such as acupressure and acupuncture, are safer than Western medicine alternatives⁸. And they’re proven to reduce stress, which helps the body function normally. This leads to optimized fertility.
The best part is – you can apply TCM methods, like acupressure, in the comfort of your own home. You can take charge of your health and fertility daily with these exercises.
In order to understand why these treatments are effective, especially for reducing stress and improving fertility, you have to first understand the systems that guide TCM.
The Five Zang Organs
TCM emphasizes the balance between the five primary systems – the liver, heart, kidney, lung, and spleen⁴.
Chinese medicine defines these differently and more broadly than Western medicine. When we talk about any one of these, we’re not simply talking about the organ itself.
These are energetic systems known as the five zang organs. They’re mainly responsible for storing your essence, otherwise known as jing-qi. Jing-qi is the nutrient required for all life activities⁷.
These systems are deeply interdependent. Something that throws one out of balance, in this case, stress, is likely to interfere with the systems as well.
This is why it’s crucial to maintain an overall balance with your emotional and physical health.
You need to be as healthy as possible when you’re trying to grow a little human.
The Connection Between the Liver, Stress, and Fertility
The liver is responsible for processing all emotions, but it’s mostly affected by anger. TCM and conventional medicine hold that suppressed emotions can damage liver function.
Stress is often an emotion we try to push to the side. It’s dangerous when it’s not addressed.
You might be thinking, “why should I care about the liver when it comes to my fertility and reducing stress?”
Because the liver also regulates the menstrual cycle. In fact, according to TCM, it’s one of the most involved systems in fertility. Liver Qi stagnation in women can cause ovarian cysts and abnormal tissue growth³.
An imbalanced or damaged liver system can also lead to:
- Irregular cycles.
- Worsened PMS symptoms.
- Decreased egg quality.
- Lowered libido.
To avoid damaging your liver and experiencing these symptoms, It can be helpful to work on processing and releasing your emotions.
Activities like journaling and meditation can help you get in touch with your emotional health. Your fertility journey can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Give your body and mind the attention they deserve.
The liver isn’t the only system you should pay attention to if you’re worried about stress and fertility.
The Importance of the Heart
The heart is mainly affected by overexcitement and its function in TCM is similar to that of Western medicine.
The heart affects fertility because it’s the energetic pathway that connects the heart organ to the uterus.
When your heart energetic system is out of balance, it starts to impact other functions, such as sleep. Good sleep is crucial for hormonal balance.
One activity that’s useful for alleviating an imbalance of your heart system, as well as your other systems, is Qigong. This is an exercise that focuses on qi – your life force energy. I teach fertility qigong to help you boost your fertility. It also helps to support your energy throughout pregnancy.
The Spleen and Anxiety
The heart and spleen are associated with similar emotions.
The spleen is related to anxiety and worry. It refers to the digestive organs, even though it’s the immune organ in Western medicine.
Digestion is the foundation of fertility. When your spleen is affected by anxiety, the transportation of water and nutrients throughout the body is inhibited⁶. You have to be able to absorb nutrients to support your natural fertility and support both your and your baby’s body during pregnancy.
Issues with your spleen can also:
- Damage egg quality.
- Affect your uterine lining.
- Interfere with your body’s ability to produce healthy hormones.
The last effect is a common result of an imbalance within any of these systems, but especially the spleen.
Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. So if you’re experiencing an excess of these emotions, you’re likely to feel the effects on your body and mind.
While the relationship between stress and fertility hasn’t always been clear-cut, countless studies in Western medicine and TCM have demonstrated that stress contributes to infertility by affecting one’s overall health.
The Kidney’s Relation to Stress and Fertility
The kidney is essentially the life force energy that supports reproduction.
It plays a huge role in prompting the development of eggs, ovulation, implantation, and embryo growth. It also affects egg quality and your ovarian reserve. The lower the number of healthy eggs you have, the less likely you are to get pregnant.
The kidney deals mostly with fear. Your primal, instinctive fear that puts you into fight or flight mode.
Two effective methods for managing this fear are meditation and therapy.
If you have past trauma, working through it with a qualified professional could work wonders for your kidneys. Learning to manage your fear and the physical and emotional stress that comes with it is crucial to promoting balance in your kidneys and the rest of your body.
The Role of the Lung
In TCM, the lung is responsible for the health of your immune system.
It’s no secret that oxygen energizes your body. So when sadness and grief, the emotions associated with the lung, are abundant, your Chi is weakened. This means your overall energy suffers.
When your immune system isn’t in balance, your body doesn’t have enough energy to support the other systems, such as your reproductive system.
Your body’s systems must all work in harmony. Stress is only one emotion that can cause destruction to your health.
But don’t be alarmed – the methods I’ve outlined below serve as a comprehensive approach to improving your overall health.
Ways to Reduce Your Stress and Promote Fertility
Stress is normal and necessary. And of course, you won’t be able to get rid of it completely, but you can find ways to manage it.
My clients have found relief before, during, and after pregnancy with the help of techniques rooted in Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views health holistically¹. This is a necessary approach to healthy fertility, a healthy mind, and a healthy body. When you work on regulating your stress, your body gives the go-ahead for getting pregnant.
There are several methods you can do at home, some of which we’ve already gone over. These activities can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost your immune system.
These exercises focus on both your physical and emotional health.
As a licensed doctor of Chinese medicine, I’ve seen its healing effects on the mind and body. The holistic approach of TCM can help you control the impact of stress and fertility in your life.
Stress and Fertility: Here’s the Deal
Ongoing stress and fertility studies will continue to share new findings. One thing for certain is that reducing stress appears to help your chances of conceiving. And your odds are even better when you make additional healthy lifestyle changes.
If you’re not sure where to start – I have your back.
Check out my Fertility Flow Journal. It includes information and exercises to help you process and manage your stress. It will also guide you to connect with your partner and lean into your natural, powerful energy.
This journal will help you maintain the balance between your mind, body, and spirit. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from looking at the relationship between stress and fertility, it’s that all of these aspects of your being play a role in your fertility health.
You don’t have to go through this alone. And you definitely don’t have to struggle.
I’m here for you and your growing family.