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Heart shaped hands over pregnant bellyIf you are reading this, chances are that you or someone very dear to you is dealing with this very problem.

So what exactly is it? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is defined as, “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

There are a number of reasons for this – some physical and some emotional. We’re going to delve into the physical consequences of the emotional side. In other words, what you are experiencing emotionally can have an influence on your physical health. In fact, todays research now shows that 60-80% of all healthcare visits are related to stress. The gamut can cover anything from low back pain, neck pain and headaches to include ulcers, acid reflux, infertility, ER, certain cancers, IBS, anxiety, PTSD, sleep loss, and many other conditions.

Today’s research now shows that 60-80% of all healthcare visits are related to stress.

Overall, infertility is like a trigger response to stress; the body realizes that it will not be able to host a healthy pregnancy if it is stressed out. Stress and infertility, therefore, form a vicious cycle. Infertility results in stress and stress prevents conception, leading to infertility.

Is it that you can’t get pregnant and it’s stressing you? Or, are you so stressed, you can’t get pregnant?

How many times have we heard stories of couples who have repeatedly tried to get pregnant, even with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and then given up and adopted, only to become pregnant? Or perhaps they took some time away to relax. So, being able to relax and help the brain and body calm down can be key to this.

There are 60 to 80 million couples worldwide currently suffering from infertility. That’s about 8-12% of the population.

Most of the couples suffering from infertility report it to be the most stressful and depressing period of their lives.

So let’s look at the studies and research that show how chronic stress can hamper or prevent pregnancy and stop blaming ourselves or our partner for the inability to conceive, a stressor in itself. (I’ve listed the references at the end.) Then we’ll talk about what can be done to try to help you.

  • Some fertility experts and medical specialists think that stress may be the cause or contributing factor in up to 30 percent of all infertility cases.
  • Stress levels in the human body are governed by hormones just as the reproductive function. Elevated stress is accompanied by increases in the levels of stress-hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol.
  • In about 40% of infertile couples the male partner is the sole cause or contributing cause of infertility.
  • Women undergoing treatment for infertility have a similar, and often higher, level of stress as women dealing with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
  • Overall, infertility is like a trigger response to stress; the body realizes that it will not be able to host a healthy pregnancy if it is stressed out. Stress and infertility, therefore, form a vicious cycle. Infertility results in stress and stress prevents conception, leading to infertility.
  • Studies have found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that correlates with stress, have a harder time getting pregnant.
  • Those women seeking infertility treatment have been diagnosed with higher levels of depression and anxiety than normal.
  • Infertile couples experience chronic stress each month, first hoping that they will conceive and then dealing with the disappointment if they do not.
  • Male infertility is usually caused by issues related to sperm count, quality and transportation.
  • Women who had stopped ovulating for more than six months had higher than normal levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
  • Men with stress issues often have erectile and coital dysfunction, again contributing to their being less fertile.
  • Anxious women take longer to conceive and are more likely to miscarry, than women who have lower levels of anxiety.
  • In men, stress can lower concentrations of sperm, and the sperm is more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility, affecting its ability to fertilize an egg.
  • The more anxiety or depression women expressed before undergoing IVF, the less likely they were to get pregnant.
  • Studies show lowered testosterone levels in men, associated with too much stress on the job.
  • Women who struggle to conceive are twice as likely to suffer from emotional distress than fertile women.

Are we starting to paint a picture here?

Let me share some insights from Dr Sarah Berga, Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vice President for Women’s Health Services, Wake Forest University Center for Reproductive Medicine.

  • She has devoted her career to one of the most hotly debated subjects in the fertility business: getting pregnant without costly drugs. Dr. Berga is one of a handful of physician-scientists exploring how chronic stress may keep some women from ovulating and how relaxation techniques may help.
  • Dr. Berga is looking at how chronic stress alters brain signals to the hypothalamus. As she puts it, she explores “how the hypothalamus talks to the pituitary that in turn talks to the ovary.” Her research suggests that a cascade of events, beginning with stress, leads to reduced levels of two hormones crucial for ovulation.
  • “We saw that if you are stressed when you start exercise, your body reacts differently than if you are not chronically stressed and exercise. Not only does it appear that exercise was more stressful for already stressed women, but certainly exercise did not help them lower their stress hormones, which is of course is one reason people take up exercising.”
  • Life without stress is impossible. People are designed to endure acute episodes of stress. That is a part of life. However, we are not built to endure high levels of chronic stress. “I am telling women, and men, that it is important to find a balance and learn to cope with their stress.”
Not only does it appear that exercise was more stressful for already stressed women, but exercise certainly did not help them lower their stress hormones, which is of course one reason people take up exercising.
  • Women who may be infertile due to stress — benefit the least from I.V.F.
  • Dr. Berga says we could do well to understand the role of stressors. She cites attitudes that cause stress including unrealistic expectations, too much happening in a day, and perfectionism.
  • “The most prevalent form of infertility I see is unexplained infertility she says. Patients with stress-induced infertility are often anxious, driven and goal oriented. If you can get stressors under control you could reduce cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are linked to low levels of reproductive hormones and to amenorrhea.
  • “My biggest goals are to help people to have better control of their lives in terms of health. Families will be healthier because parents are healthier.”
Dr Berga says, “People need to understand that the way we think has health consequences.”

What can we do at our office that may be able to help you?

First, let’s start with chiropractic. Chiropractic is not about the bones of the spine. It’s primarily about the nervous system which controls and coordinates all organs, glands, tissues and systems in the body. It is the master controller of the body. Chiropractic is about helping your body function at it’s best with unimpeded nerve flow and communication back and forth, between your brain and body, via the nerves, to the organs, glands, muscles and tissues of your body. Yes, we access the nervous system through the spine, but it’s really about the nerves. I’m not a mechanic shoving bones, but rather more like an IT guy, or an electrician. This is also why I prefer the gentle chiropractic approach of the Activator Method®. There is no popping, cracking, or snapping of the spine.

Another analogy I use, is that of a cell phone. We all know five bars is a strong signal. When someone comes to me with their health issue, whatever that may be, I inform them that I am trying to help their brain and body communicate better. If you’re dealing with infertility, low back pain or IBS, for instance, these are areas that may be experiencing nerve interference in the lower back. So we may only have a three bar signal getting down there. The brain is the cell tower and the body is the phone. I want to help your body get the strongest signal so that your brain can speak to your body and say, “Can you hear me now?” Over simplified? Maybe, but everyone understand the analogy.

So we start with chiropractic. After doing a chiropractic oriented examination of the spine and nervous system, we then move on to a Stress Responses Evaluation (SRE) for those who choose to do so. It is a computer based examination which is painless and requires you to sit in a relaxing chair with various wires attached to your head, ears, shoulders, fingers and around your waist. We are not putting anything into your body, simply reading information from your brain and body.

The information gained from this 20 minute evaluation helps us determine your levels of stress during the exam and also how well you recover from each of the tests. Based on the information, it helps me determine how I might adjust your spine, or the frequency of your visits. For example, an over-aroused nervous system means we need to adjust more gently and less frequently. Then there will be suggestions for home care; certain things I will recommend you do or refrain from doing. However, I must make it clear that all of these other things are secondary to the chiropractic care. They complement it but they do not replace it.

Can I guarantee that you will become pregnant after you begin care with us? Absolutely not! However, I can tell you we have had couples become pregnant whom were unable to before.

In one case, a woman already had given birth twice and wanted to have another baby. When she and her husband were unsuccessful, the doctor examined her and told her she wouldn’t be able to conceive. Shortly after beginning care in our office, for headaches and back pain, she became pregnant.

In another case, a woman came to me for chronic low back pain. After about four weeks of care and resolving her low back pain, she announced with a smile, that she would not be returning to our office. This of course surprised me. When I asked why, she said she got what she came for, “…to get pregnant.”

I asked her why she came to me for infertility. She said she had heard in the news that chiropractic had helped other women with this condition and she thought she would try it. I asked her why she had never informed me of the fact that she was in my office for that purpose. She said she and her husband had been through so much emotionally and financially on IVF and such that she felt very vulnerable and decided to keep quiet about it.

What I love to ‘stress’ about this case is that she never told me about the inability to become pregnant. I simply evaluated her spine on each visit to determine where I needed to make corrections to free up any nerve interference and her body did what it needed to do.

The body knows how to heal itself. Sometimes there’s just something impeding the process.

Please give us a call if you would be interested in setting up an appointment. Also, let’s remember that it would be good to have both parties evaluated.



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  • Too Much Stress Can Make Men Infertile: Study
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    By : Roshni Mahesh, May 31, 2014
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  • Infertility definitions and terminology–Sexual and reproductive health

  • Endocr Rev. 2017 Oct 1;38(5):432-467. doi: 10.1210/er.2016-1133.
    Linking Stress and Infertility: A Novel Role for Ghrelin.
  • THE HPO AXIS (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian axis); Hormonal control of the menstrual cycle/ Feedback Mechanism. Bernie O’Hara, August 7, 2014
    Natural Family Planning Teachers Association of Ireland (NFPTAI)
  • The Vicious Cycle of Stress and Infertility

  • What is the role of hormones on the function and development of the brain?
    Murat Osman, Nov 14, 2017
    News & Research Portal for The Endometriosis Foundation of America
  • Home – Raleigh, NC, Fertility Guide – Fertility Doctor of the Month: Sarah L. Berga, M.D.

  • A Low-Tech Approach to Fertility: Just Relax
    A Conversation With Dr. Sarah L. Berga By Randi Hutter Epstein, Sept. 4, 2007

Infertility | Ludwig Chiropractic | (253) 735-0123