I think we can all agree that infertility is stressful! Regardless of whether you are trying to conceive naturally or through ART (such as a Letrozole or Clomid cycle, IUI, IVF, ICSI, etc), struggling with infertility can be a time of high stress and anxiety.
The idea that infertility causes stress has been well documented (1), however, there seems to be some debate about whether stress affects your fertility.
At Yin, we believe that stress can have an impact on your fertility (and health in general) and we want to support you with the tools to manage your body’s response to stress. However, let’s take a look at the research…
Studies have shown that the LH (luteinizing hormone) surge needed for ovulation can be delayed when stressed  and your body’s hormones work best when not in that ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic) state. In clinic, our menstruating clients will often report variations to their cycle in times of stress – they may experience more intense premenstrual symptoms including period pain or the cycle may be shorter or longer than usual.
Even though we may not think of ourselves as ‘stressed”, it’s often the case that our bodies think otherwise. In our modern world, many of us lead busy lives and our body can easily sit in a ‘fight or flight’ mode, rather than moving to our parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.
Artificial Reproductive Technologies (IVF)
In our clinical experience, IVF can not only be physically uncomfortable for many people, but also time-consuming, exhausting, and expensive. As a result, it’s common for patients to experience stress and anxiety around IVF processes.
But is stress itself a detrimental factor to IVF outcomes? There have been a number of studies (3)(4) concluding that stress does NOT have a negative impact on IVF outcomes.
Whilst this is good news for those feeling stressed with the IVF process and worrying about outcomes, we still believe in making you feel better and reducing the uncomfortable signs and symptoms that can come with feeling stressed.
How to reduce stress?
No one wants to be told to “just relax”, “stop thinking about it” or to “take a holiday”…. So what can you do to reduce stress and return to a parasympathetic state?
You won’t be surprised by our first suggestion – we love to use acupuncture as a way of helping to reduce stress. A recent study (5) has shown many women believed that their well-being was enhanced by having acupuncture during IVF treatment. They described this feeling as a reduction of stress and relaxation.
We also encourage other stress management techniques such as guided meditation, yoga (or gentle exercise), getting out in nature or just doing the things you love and find fun. In an earlier blog, Stress, Fertility and Your Liver, we explained stress from a Chinese medicine perspective with more practical recommendations on how to help manage this.
At Yin, we love working with fertility clients and understand how stressful infertility and IVF can be. A sense of relaxation and increased resilience is one of the first things many of our clients will comment on when trying acupuncture for the first time.
If you want help with your stress levels (fertility-related or not), please give us a call or book an appointment online.
1. Kristin L. Rooney, Alice D. Domar. The relationship between stress and infertility. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2018 Mar; 20(1): 41–47. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2018.20.1/
2. Li QQ, Shi gx, xu Q, Wang J, Liu CZ, Wang LP. Acupuncture effect and central autonomic regulation. evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:267959. doi:10.1155/2013/267959
3. Miller N, Herzberger EH, Pasternak Y, Klement AH, Shavit T, Yaniv RT, Ghetler Y, Neumark E, Eisenberg MM, Berkovitz A, Shulman A, Wiser A. Does stress affect IVF outcomes? A prospective study of physiological and psychological stress in women undergoing IVF. Reprod Biomed Online. 2019 Jul;39(1):93-101. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2019.01.012. Epub 2019 Jan 31. PMID: 31085094.
4. Boivin J, Griffiths E, Venetis C A. Emotional distress in infertile women and failure of assisted reproductive technologies: meta-analysis of prospective psychosocial studies BMJ 2011; 342 :d223 doi:10.1136/bmj.d223
5. Smith, CA, de Lacey, S, Chapman, M, et al. The effects of acupuncture on the secondary outcomes of anxiety and quality of life for women undergoing IVF: A randomized controlled trial. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2019; 98: 460- 469.