Question:

How does stress impact fertility?

Stress and Female Infertility

During periods of stress, the human body responds with altered secretion of some hormones, changes in blood flow, enhanced senses and increased respiration. Muscles tighten, blood flow decreases in the abdominal organs, and your eyes dilate. This is akin to the "fight or flight response" in animals, and each of these changes help animals to better manage dangerous or life-threatening events.

Humans, however, do not generally have life-threatening events that require mobilization of such extreme responses. We do experience the side effects of the stress response, though, and stress may impact fertility in the following ways:

1) disturbed sleep and wake cycles - altered sleep patterns effect hormonal production

2) altered pituitary hormone production - The pituitary produces hormones for the menstrual cycle.

3) blood flow is decreased to the abdominal organs, including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes

4) stress chemicals, like cortisol, are released into the bloodstream, which can impair thyroid function.

Thyroid dysfunction is a known contributor to infertility. A certain amount of stress can improve your performance at work and in sports, and can energize you and enhance your senses. However, prolonged stress has many negative side effects, including: high blood pressure, insomnia, chest pain, digestive problems, and certainly not least, it may contribute to female infertility.

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