Pregnancy Over 40, Stress and Fertility

HomeMiscarriageStress, Infertility and Miscarriage


Please don't dismiss the connection between increased cortisol due to your stressful lifestyle. Many of us don't even know how much stress we are under until we get away from it.

Reduce stress if you want to get pregnant. I'm not telling you anything you haven't already heard right? It's been written and rewritten to the point that everyone just says, I do yoga, I deep breathe, now why aren't I pregnant?! When I was first trying to conceive, I had what I now call a “corporate pressure cooker” job. I worked up to 10-12 hours per day, I was continually feeling a time pressure trying to meet deadlines, I battled rush hour traffic, I gulped my not-so-healthy lunch between meetings....need I go on? I recall going to doctor's appointments during my work day and having high blood pressure readings. I rationalized it by saying, “oh, I had to run over here, I'm sure it will go down in a minute”.
In addition, I never got enough sleep with my overcrowded mind racing when I went to bed. Like many career women, I grew up in a family with a strong work ethic, I thought this was the way it was supposed to be. Although I would not admit it at the time, much of my self worth was wrapped up in my job. I felt like a “worthy” person when I got accolades at work and the hardest workers got the most recognition. I often look back at those days and wonder, how on earth did I think I could get pregnant under those circumstances?

Some Evidence That Stress Does Affect Fertility and Can Be Related to Miscarriage

Why does stress affect fertility? When your body is under stress, it's natural fight or flight response produces cortisol (the stress hormone). To make cortisol, your body needs progesterone. Progesterone is considered to be the “pro-gestation” hormone and is needed for a successful pregnancy. If your body is using progesterone to make cortisol, it's not available to support your reproductive system. One study found that women who were of normal weight but had not had a period in six months had high cortisol levels. Although these women felt that they were handling their stress well, when they were given behavioral therapy, 80% started ovulating again. Additionally, stress-related hormones and chemicals produced by your body may target uterine cells causing a chain reaction ending in miscarriage. Even the tissue of some miscarried fetuses has shown the presence of these stress related hormones and chemicals. Stress can also cause high blood pressure which may have an association with muscle injury resulting in uterine fibroids.

What Does It Mean To Reduce Your Stress?

Take an inventory of your lifestyle: Are you getting 8 hours of sleep per night? There is a natural cycle of light and dark which helps to regulate your circadian rhythms, melatonin, and reproductive hormones.  If you're not getting enough sleep, this can disrupt hormonal balance. Do you frequently feel pressed for time? Are you constantly saying there aren't enough hours in the day? Do you feel a constant pressure to perform at work? Are you in a continual state of worry about your job security? Are you able to eat your meals in a leisurely fashion? Do you have the time to prepare/eat a healthy meal including fruits and vegetables? Is your normal blood pressure below 120/80? Although some individuals have high blood pressure not necessarily associated with stress, for many, it can be reduced with lifestyle and dietary changes.

If you are trying to conceive, you need to take an honest inventory of your life. For me, the only way to reduce my stress was to quit my high-stress job. Yes, I gave up a good salary and all the “golden shackles”, but now I have my daughter which beats a salary and benefits hands down.

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