Stress and Infertility

May 11

Stress and InfertilityIt is an unfortunate catch-22: Stress contributes to infertility and infertility causes stress.  I was reminded of this the other day when I posted an article about the relationship between stress and the incidence of early miscarriage and a former patient responded, “Eek, just reading this article made me stressed.”  

There have been multiple studies on the relationship between stress and fertility. If you would like to read more about this, I have listed a link at the end of this article. After you visit that website, I invite you to take a nice deep breath and continue reading below on this post to learn about how you can mediate the stress in your life while trying to conceive.  I will guide you step by step to a less-stress life.

STEP 1: Vitamin B 6

The first thing you can do if you are stressed and trying to conceive is go out and buy a Vitamin B Stress Complex.  This should be taken in addition to the pre-natal vitamin you are taking.  Stress increases the amount of cortisol in the body and Vitamin B6 and its counterparts help mediate the effects that cortisol has on the body. Studies have also shown that vitamin B6 can help normalize menstrual cycles and balance hormones such as estrogen, prolactin and progesterone.  If you would like a recommendation on a brand of vitamins, please feel free to contact me.

STEP 2: Make an Appointment

After getting the above supplement, I recommend making an appointment with an informed and well-educated practitioner of Chinese or naturopathic medicine. Seeing someone with education in herbology is so important because there are so many supplements out there online but not every supplement is good for every person.  For example, many people read that taking L-ARGINE is good for fertility but if you have any history of shingles, herpes, or cold-sores you should not take this supplement because it cold lead to an outbreak.  It is also very Yang in nature in Chinese Medicine and if you run warm, it could exacerbate your condition.  Another example is DHEA. DHEA is a very strong supplement and should not be taken by everyone.  It can cause headaches or create changes in your hormones in an in a negative direction. The fact that “DHEA helps people who are not ovulating” doesn’t mean you should take it if you are not ovulating because it is not right for everyone.  Another example: I recently had a patient with diabetes taking PYCNOGENOL for Male Factor Infertility without realizing that the herb could decrease his blood sugar dangerously if taken with his regular meds.  I don’t mean to scare you by mentioning this.  I would just like to stress that an experienced practitioner should be able to help you sift through all of the information out there online. 

Acupuncture is also really great to reduce stress.  It helps release endorphins and serotonin, relax muscles, normalize blood pressure, increase blood flow and the distribution of oxygen in the body, and normalize cortisol and hormones in the body. If you are worried about the cost of this, community acupuncture clinics are a good option.

STEP 3: Practice Relaxation

The worst thing you can hear when stressed is someone say, “Just relax!” It doesn’t quite work that way.  Learning to relax takes practice.  It is not like you can drop everything and learn how to calm yourself in one meditative sitting.  I often give my patients a relaxation CD to take home and listen to on a daily basis.  The goal is to listen to it enough so that the relaxation techniques become easy and your body can slip into the mode when you need it.  On of my favorites is Alice Domar’s Relaxation CD, which is nice to listen too, and not too new agey- no birds chirping and chimes ringing on this CD!

Step 4: Create Easy Goals

Here is an exercise that has helped many people that facilitates stress reduction over a two-month period. Make a list with eight rows and two columns.  Down the rows list the top eight things that cause stress in your life.  This can be anything from a person to a situation to a reaction.  In another column write down something that you could do to make it better. If you can’t think of anything, leave it blank.  Each week for 8 weeks dedicate yourself to one thing you can work on.  If you do not know what to do for that trigger of stress, dedicate that week to figuring that out.  That can mean seeing a counselor, making time for a private yoga class, dedicating time to talk about it, joining an online support group or community, or just figuring out ways to make it better by dedicating time to read or engage in online research.  Doing this will give you a simple goal and break it down over a long period of time so that things do not seem to be overwhelming.  I have gotten good feedback from patients doing this exercise I created.  I invite you to try it and if you think it was helpful or useless, please let me know! 

Please know that you are not alone in this.  If you would like any help being guided to the plethora of resources out there for you, please feel free to comment below. If you would like to learn more about the relationship between stress and fertiliy, click here.  


Liz Richards, L.Ac.