Quarantine, protests, virtual or no work/school, riots, face mask wearing. . . Demands, expectations, uncertainties, and judgement from others. . . I want to be pregnant, when is it my turn, none of this is fair. . .
Life is full of constant change, how you are able to cope and adapt to change is imperative for a healthy reproductive system. Each day you are faced, and often challenged, with events and situations that result in a beautiful cascade of biochemical pathways adapted from centuries of human development. Unfortunately, due to the non-stop nature of the current Information Age, these challenges often come too many and too fast for your body to accommodate as it usually could for proper reproduction.
Although the stress reaction to this Information Age is a life preserving activity, and cortisol (glucocorticoids/GC) mediates a stress response and plays a role in a multitude of functions in the body such as regulating metabolism, the inflammatory response and immune function; continuous exposure to cortisol shuts down regulatory functions of the reproductive system. Picture all body activities on a totem pole, some are a top priority while others, reproduction as an example, take a bottom position to more important life sustaining activities.
The onset of stress initiates numerous inhibitory effects on both sexes and their reproductive hormones, mainly from a rise in glucocorticoids. For males, increases in GC directly decrease testosterone in the testes and at the brain level which impacts sperm density, total sperm count, forward motility, and morphology, and can lead to low libido and erectile dysfunction.
For females, GC suppresses gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) which decreases follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) leading to ovulation disruptions that can ultimately cause estradiol, progesterone and testosterone production disruptions and more period problems. Cortisol also induces resistance of target tissue to estradiol leading to amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and painful sex.
Stress reactions are seen clinically when big life events such as earthquakes, death of a loved one, and pandemics correlate with skipped periods or late periods for what would otherwise seem like for no reason. The body can be that sensitive to stress reactions that ovulation is pushed later than expected or not at all in that single reproductive cycle.
Now consider the overwhelming increase in stress occurrences to the fact that ~20 million Americans have thyroid issues and problems become even worse for reproduction. If you develop a thyroid issue in your lifetime you can potentially be decreasing your fertility without any stressors present.
What can you do to reduce stress? First, stress needs to be addressed and talked about. We need to remove the blame and stigma that it is somehow your fault for your body’s beautiful biochemical pathway that is saving your life. You DON’T have to just relax, never let a practitioner tell you to just relax, at least when it pertains to your inability to conceive today. Second, understand if you have thyroid problems, obesity, blood sugar dysfunctions, sleep disturbances, or have long-term glucocorticoid drug use, minor stressors will compound your reproduction struggles even more.
Fertility Oasis uses a variety of therapies to combating stress and increasing fertility:
- Address ACES: adverse childhood events increase your sensitivity to stress as an adult
- Remove stressors: the difficulty with this is many fertility patients don’t identify any stress
- Support groups: women with a support group have higher conception rates (54%) than those without a support group (20%).
- Self care: sounds simple because it is. Make yourself a priority now.
- Vagal nerve exercises: laying on your right side stimulates vagus nerve (key part to parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system)
- Stimulate oxytocin release: physical touch, encouragement and appreciation, genuine laughter
- Emotional Freedom Technique aka Tapping
- Grounding exercises
- Avoid electronics upon waking and at bed
- Get full sun exposure upon waking
- Support your biochemical pathways:
- Good Multivitamin
- B complex: B5 (500mg), B6 (as P5P 10-50mg)
- Vitamin C: 100mg-1000mg
- Magnesium: 250-500mg
- Essential Fatty Acids: 1000-3000mg
- GABA 250-1000mg
- Amino Acid therapy
- L-theanine: 200-600mg (organic matcha)
- 5HTP 50-300mg
- Tyrosine 500-1000mg
- L-taurine 250-300mg
- Epsom Salt baths
- Get 8-10 hours of sleep: your circadian rhythm greatly influences glucocorticoid release and hormone production
- Herbal Therapy: herbs can decrease glucocorticoids, restoring proper GnRH production, and decreasing GnIH release.
- Magnolia, Ziziphus vulgaris, Skullcap, Chamomile, Passionflower
- When stressed and wired – Withania somniferous, Holy Basil, Schisandra, Shataviri, Rhodiola
- When stressed and tired – Glycyrrhiza, Maca, Panax ginseng, Eleuthero
Speak to a healthcare professional that will look at all body systems together to determine which of these therapies will best strengthen your resilience to stress responses and improve your fertility outcomes.
Dr. Nicole Kerr, ND, LAc operates an all-natural fertility clinic in Wallingford CT, Fertility Oasis. At Fertility Oasis, Dr. Kerr teaches her patients the importance of preconception care and about all treatment options available to couples struggling to conceive. Male and female infertility factors are addressed by Dr. Kerr to offer comprehensive fertility care for her patients.
Fertility Oasis, 857 N Main St Ext Suite 1, Wallingford CT, 203.265.0459