How Stress Can Be Impacting Your Fertility
While summer is typically thought of as a time to relax, it can easily be one of the most stressful times of the year as well With warmer weather comes the increased likelihood of pest infestations, as well as holiday preparations such as for the Fourth of July. Clinton may be a quiet little town in Mississippi, but its inhabitants are no stranger to stress. However, research shows that stress could be impacting not only one’s overall health but reproductive potential as well.
Stress, Hunger, and Reproduction
Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia have found a link between chronic stress and reproduction problems through the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is released when the body needs more nutrients and is effectively the hormone that stimulates the appetite. When the body is stressed, there is increased levels of ghrelin in the body. RMIT researchers have found a connection between heightened ghrelin levels and reduced reproductive functions.
Co-author of the report, Dr. Luba Sominsky, found that blocking ghrelin receptors in female mice reduced the effect of chronic stress on several important aspects of ovarian functioning. While mice aren’t exactly humans, both mouse and human endocrinology work similarly, and so Sominsky’s research can give people an insight into fertility issues.
As Sominsky says in her report, that their findings uncover the interesting ways in which ghrelin not only affects hunger and weight loss endeavors but reproductive functioning as well. Young, healthy women experiencing acute stress may have reversible effects on stress on their reproductive system. But women who suffer from fertility problems may have exacerbated issues if put under more stress.
The Physical Demand
Potential theories for this research may come from the physical demands reproduction has on the body. Raising a child puts physical and mental stress on the mother, so an already stressed woman might have worse childbirth or quality of life for the child, and the body seeks to avoid that. A second theory could be that ghrelin indicates more hunger, which could mean food scarcity, so the body will wait until ghrelin is reduced. This would mean that the mother is well fed, inferring more food for the child to eat as well.
There may come a time when researchers find a way to disconnect ghrelin’s impact on reproduction, allowing stressed women to increase their fertility. However, that day has not come yet. Taking heed of the current research, women seeking to get pregnant should find ways to reduce stress and stay well-fed, thus reducing the prevalence of ghrelin and increasing fertility.
How to Reduce Ghrelin in the Body
The first is to maintain a healthy diet. Starvation heavily contributes to amenorrhea, which is when a woman’s periods stop. While it may still be possible to conceive with amenorrhea, the likelihood is significantly reduced. Therefore, be sure to maintain a healthy, consistent diet, making sure to eat three evenly-spaced meals a day and perhaps even before bed.
Women can also take up meditation, go to spas, and exercise regularly to reduce stress. If those options are not available, herbal supplements such as chamomile tea are available too. While stress may be an unavoidable part of life, it doesn’t have to affect your fertility.