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Fertility & Your Stress Level

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infertility-and-your-stress-levelIt is generally well known that stress can have a negative impact on a couple’s chances of conception, even under the best of circumstances. When those circumstances include the difficulty of getting pregnant, well, it can make the stress levels rise, which only adds to the difficult circumstances, which thereby, has an ever increasing negative impact on fertility. After a while if not addressed, the couple can feel like a hamster in a wheel.

I spoke with Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi, Medical Director of Austin Fertility & Reproductive Medicine in Austin, Texas. Dr. Kavoussi explains that in some instances, stress has been shown to actually suppress ovulation altogether, which leads to infrequent or absent opportunities for an egg to mature and be released from the ovary for fertilization. ‘Women who are affected by stress to such a degree’ Dr. Kavoussi explains, ‘have the obvious clinical sign of infrequent or absent periods. The good news is that by taking steps to reduce their stress level, women are able to resume ovulation.’

The tendency when we talk about “stress reduction” is to go right for the bedroom, but for couples who are fighting for a family, the typical activity involved can be viewed as less than enjoyable at times. ‘Infertility can be an exceptionally difficult thing to deal with’ explains Dr. Kavoussi ‘but the good news is that there are a multitude of things that couples can do that can have a significant impact on their chances of conceiving. Here are the two that Dr. Kavoussi believes should be at the top of the list.

Decrease Stress and Increase Your Chances of Fertility


This practice has been around for centuries and when applied to the issue of fertility has been shown to have an impact on not only stress levels, but also increases blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. Clinical trials have shown that the practice is associated with increased pregnancy rates among in-vitro fertilization (IVF) patients. There is also the possibility that acupuncture can help women undergoing fertility treatment other than IVF.


This is a big one because what a woman eats can also have a direct impact on stress levels. The more caffeine and refined sugar in the bloodstream, the more prone a person might be toward increased stress levels. Avoiding alcohol (which is a depressant) can also be helpful in the fight against stress. While there is no ‘fertility diet’ to speak of yet, the following two subsets of women who experience infertility can make dietary changes that can realize a benefit from the standpoint of fertility issues.

  • Women with infrequent or absent ovulation and periods due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who are overweight or obese: ovulation may return with a 10% weight loss due to small frequent meals with total daily calorie restriction of 2000 kcal/day or less (in conjunction with exercise).


  • Women with infrequent or absent ovulation/periods due to excess weight, loss due to excessive exercise and/or eating disorders such as anorexia/bulimia:  weight gain back to baseline usually results in a return of ovulation.  Women with exercise regimens generally require more reinforcement and followup to increase the chances of making adjustments in their exercise regimens and those with eating disorders usually need psychiatric counseling to help facilitate changes in eating behavior. 

For more information or to contact Austin Fertility & Reproductive Medicine, please visit Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine.

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