The Infertility & Stress Connection
Trigger Warning: Today I am going to be talking about how chronic stress could be making your fertility challenges even more of a challenge. So take a deep breath before reading on. This post is going to be worth it, I promise.
You have two adrenal glands, one on-top of each kidney, and they are responsible for your “fight or flight” response. This response is a wonderful thing when we come into contact with dangerous situations.
Only issue is that most of us are spending our days in a constant “fight or flight" state, or elevated cortisol state… which is now being referred to as “sit & stew” since we aren't really trying to outrun danger. We are stressed by our jobs, traffic, family members, stress with ourselves, our pets … you name it & we are probably stressing about it.
Alright … so how does this relate to fertility you ask?
Well, your body & your hormones are run by tons of feedback loops between your endocrine glands and parts of your brain. Your brain tells the glands to make hormones, your glands make the hormones, and then your brain picks up on this & down-regulates its “make more hormones” communication until it's needed again. (This is oversimplified but it'll do for today)
The issue is that when we are in a chronic stressed out state and pumping out cortisol all the time, eventually the body starts to shut down this over-production and now down-regulates it all.
What Happens: You can end up with under-functioning adrenals which also leads to an under-functioning thyroid & low ovarian output. This will mean that your ovaries are not maturing follicles to the best of their ability & the low estrogen output might not stimulate ovulation or will lead to what is called weak ovulation. If ovulation does occur, the slowed functioning of the thyroid will hinder adequate progesterone output.
Chronic stress will also hinder digestion, lead to inflammation & immune activation. All things that do not make the best environment for fertilization & implantation.
I would call this “secondary infertility due to chronic stress” … I did put a trigger warning on this post. But I want to be clear that I am NOT saying “JuSt rElAx It'lL HaPpEn” … It isn't that simple & that generally is not enough to correct the issues you are having. BUT there are tons of things we can do to address the underlying cause(s) & restore optimal function of your adrenals, thyroid, ovaries & overall fertility.
Note: other things can cause this same reaction outside of stress alone. Gut infections, stealth pathogens, the use of certain medications, poor diet, low quality sleep… it isn't just one thing usually.
Top 3 Things You Can Do:
Start with an anti-inflammatory diet & balance your blood sugar. Imbalanced blood sugar will stress the adrenals as well deplete the body of vital nutrients for fertility. This is exactly what I teach you in The Nourished Egg Project: The Foundations.
Have functional labs done to figure out exactly where the dysfunction is occurring so that you can tailor your plan to your needs. Based on if you are experiencing low thyroid function, low ovarian output, low progesterone, low cortisol vs high cortisol your plan will change!
Begin telling yourself that your body is capable of doing all the things you want it to & believe yourself. Come up with a body positive mantra and write it down somewhere you will see it everyday & then say it out-loud to yourself every single day.
Pro-Tip: We generally need to work from the top-down, or brain-down. Chronic stress (especially the kind that comes from dealing with infertility in the first place) will begin to down-regulate the brains communication with your reproductive organs, other endocrine glands & even impair digestion. Trying to convince your corpus luteum to produce more progesterone without addressing the brains roll in this will leave your fertility plan falling short.
While “just relax” isn't helpful .. supporting your body's ability to cope & handle stress is going to go a long way towards restoring optimal fertility.
PS: Medications such as Acutane & Prednisone have been shown to suppress your body's ability to functional at an optimal level. This isn't medical advice, please speak with your prescribing physician but do keep this in mind when assessing your “root cause”