I thought it would be really interesting to talk about stress from the perspective of fertility. The topic is weighty for women on the fertility journey. Before we delve into the topic, I would like for us to recognize chronic stress triggers are very personalized to each woman. There’s no standard for stress, instead an expansive spectrum exists. Any statements I make are generalized.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the perfect woman. You might find her reacting to the video. She might tell you:
“I should eliminate all the stress in my life.”
“My fertility is destroyed by stress.”
“If I don’t get this stress under control, I’ll never have a baby.”
Remember, chronic stress is part of the human journey. We all deal with stress and its effects. Only implement changes in your life that bring out the best in who you are.
Stress is a natural response for our bodies. The stress response can be detrimental to your health, mentally and physically when the threshold is constantly being broken.
Let’s break stress down into easy digestible pieces.
Stress has two major categories:
1) Acute short-term threat to our physical body – We have a reaction to a possibly dangerous situation. Example of this would be having a near miss car accident or tripping downstairs. In this category there is an actually threat to our physical being. The key to acute stress, it’s short lived and effects quickly dissipates.
2) Chronic stress – From this point on, we will be discussing the topic of chronic stress. Chronic stress is a perceived threat in our mind. There is no actually threat to our physical wellbeing. Chronic stress involves two broad elements – internal and external components.
a) Lack of support and connection to a social network of family and friends.
b) Work stress – Needing time off from work for monitoring, having to tell your boss about fertility treatments, disliking your job, the commute, long work hours taking away from quality of life.
c) Financial issues – paying for fertility treatments.
d) Environmental issues – such as diet, allergens, noise pollution, mold.
e) Social media/advertising pressure portrayed, such as happy babies and mother pictures, pictures of pregnant friends.
f) Family members/friends getting pregnant or making comments about you having a baby.
g) Sleep – A spouse who gets up early and wakes the other partner up. A child who wants into bed with mom and dad frequently.
a) Family genetics can lean a woman to anxiety and depression. Your genes can impact your ability to control stress.
b) Personality type- some woman handle stress better than others. Other woman leans towards anxiety.
c) Your relationship with the person who you want to conceive a baby with. Fertility journey is a big couple stressor. Especially when one person is less interested in participating in fertility treatments or can’t provide support. Or you feeling you have failed your husband to provide a baby. Maybe wondering if your husband will want to stay married to you.
d) Self-esteem – feeling your body is broken or being stuck at a point in the journey.
e) The ability to cope (with stress) – how we learn to cope with uncertainty, scarcity, lack of control and mystery of the unknown is a huge challenge in the fertility journey. Wondering if IVF cycle will fail or if the window of opportunity has closed.
f) Instinctual desires for a child combined with hormonal triggers – how you feel inside your mind about the perception of danger in not conceiving.
The key with chronic stress, the effects are long lasting and can turn into physical symptoms, like headaches, bowel changes, back pain, shoulder neck tension, grinding teeth and insomnia.
As you can see, chronic stress is coming at you from a lot of different directions. This is why stress is hard to measure in research studies. The layering of issues combined with how women respond to stress varies, making research difficult.
What can be said – there is three levels of relationship that exist in the fertility journey.
1) Internal and external stress may lead to fertility problems.
2) Internal and external stress may result from the diagnosis of infertility
3) Fertility problems and internal/external stress might have a reciprocal relationship and impact/feed each other.