Stress, Infertility, and Why a Link Between the Two Truly Exists
Although stress has a clear link to an individual’s health, there has long been an inconsistent message as to its role in cases of infertility. Fertility specialists are typically clear that stress alone is not solely responsible for an inability to conceive, especially to ward against well-meaning but unhelpful suggestions of “just relax and it will happen.” A recent study from The Journal of Neuroscience does begin to contradict this long-held thought, though what it means for couples struggling to conceive is still open-ended.
How does the study link stress and infertility?
After considerable testing, scientists were able to locate a nerve bundle at the base of our brains called the RFRP neurons. During times of stress, this nerve bunch would actually “suppress the reproductive system.” Within the study, the reaction to the reproductive system was most common in the female participants, but male participants did see an impact as well.
How can this reaction be treated to help fertility?
In the future, the scientists who led the study are hopeful that there will be approved medications that block the actions of the RFRP neurons so fertility is not affected by stress. Unfortunately, these drugs are not yet deemed safe for human use.
Normal stress management methods are still recommended by doctors, these can include:
- Improved diet and exercise routine
- Reducing caffeine intake when possible
- Eliminating tobacco and heavy alcohol use
- No recreational drug use
- Seeking therapy
- Seeking family and friend support
What if my stress comes from not being able to conceive?
Normal, everyday stress is common and tends to ebb and flow over the course of our lives. For those who are unable to conceive and seeking fertility care, there is a clear added element of stress – time management, medications, appointments, missing work, injections, surgery, diagnoses, third-party reproduction options, etc. Although stress can be a contributing factor based on the information presented in the RFRP study, it is unlikely your doctor will diagnose you with stress-caused infertility alone. Support groups (both in-person and online), staying organized and on top of fertility-related responsibilities, and practicing good self-care are currently among the best ways to lessen stress during a fertility journey.
If you have questions about male infertility or would like to book a consultation, please contact Male Fertility & Sexual Medicine Specialists today.