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Stress and Infertility

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I have been in the medical field for over 24 years.  The last 15 of those years as an RN working everywhere from California to Alaska and Hawaii to the Virgin Islands. I had thought I had seen and done everything until I started working at La Jolla IVF one year ago.  New to reproductive services I was and still am amazed at how science, technology and hope come together to create life.

Equally amazing to me is how pleasant it is to work here. Let’s face it, in my 24 years I have worked in less than desirable settings as a nurse, and I know an enjoyable place to work when I see one.  I attribute this mainly to the founder and medical director Dr. Smotrich.

Dr. Smotrich is professional, compassionate, gracious and truly cares about the happiness of his patients and his staff. In addition, a compassionate, caring wonderful staff has been drawn to him.  My coworkers are positive, professional, hard working AND are still fun to be around!  Everyone works together as team for the common goal- which is patient satisfaction.

It is no wonder that a pleasant doctor, a happy staff and a relaxed environment all contribute to patient outcome.   The negative vibe of a stressed out staff will spread to the patient.  We all know keeping stress to a minimum is important especially in reproductive services.   Since becoming a stress management coach, I was motivated to find out just how critical stress is in the fertility world.

“Stress is number one…” says embryologist  and laboratory director Awi Botes, who so graciously entertained my new passion. He said the pregnancy rate in fertility back in the 80’s was only about 12%.  Today’s increase up to about 40% * is not only due to technology but also because we know so much more about stress and its role in fertility.

As Awi Botes went on describing the fragile environment needed for the survival of an embryo my appreciation for the making of  miracles soared.   There are so many details critical to the laboratory that can cause stress to the embryo, right down to the paint on the wall.  The lighting, strong smells, chemicals and much more are taken into consideration.  Using a special air filtration system is just one of the special cares taken in the lab to reduce and eliminate stress.

Stress can also impact sperm and conception.  Studies have shown that a stressed male, including the stress of a poor diet,  will show decreased sperm count and motility.  Awi Botes said that he can see under his microscope the difference in shape and appearance of less than optimal sperm when stress has been a factor in the male’s life.  As for the female, I have always heard that it is more difficult to become pregnant when you are stressed, but I did not know why until my conversation  with Awi.  If a female is having a stress response her fallopian tubes constrict making it more difficult for the egg and sperm to meet.

It also makes sense that minimizing stress during a pregnancy is critical.  Stress comes in so many forms such as, worry, anxiety, and depression just to name a few.  The stress response begins by  releasing the stress hormones which have significant negative impacts on the body.  Add this to the hormones of pregnancy, the vicious cycle begins and you now have the perfect storm.  Awi Botes states that this may also be why surrogate pregnancy rates are higher because surrogates do not have the same emotional stresses as the intended parent mother might.   In addition, the field of epi genetics has done  fascinating research on the association between stress during pregnancy, DNA methylation and gene expression.

So how can you minimize your stress while you are trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant?  Here are a few tips to get you started:

First, figure out what the stress is and if possible get rid of it. This is the time to lighten your load.

Give yourself permission to decrease your responsibilities.   Delegate and ask for help.

Coaches are excellent at helping you brainstorm ways to shorten your list of stresses.

Second, excellent new studies have shown that relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization can lower your stress hormones.  You don’t have to sit in one position for hours- all it takes is a few minutes a day to get the benefit.

Third, a healthy diet.   Choose healthy and organic foods as much as possible.   Stay away from the foods with hormones, antibiotics, steroids and pesticides, these things are harmful and illicit the stress response in your body.

Fourth,  have fun and laugh!  Yes there are studies for this too.  Laughter does lower your stress hormones.  Find something you enjoy and do it regularly.  Make having fun a priority!

Fifth, build your support team.   Whether it is a friend or family member or counselor or coach, it is important to have support.  Feelings of loneliness and isolation cause the stress response! Having an objective non-judgmental person on your team can make a huge difference in your fertility success.

La Jolla IVF is a great place to start your fertility journey.  Dr. Smotrich and his staff value integrity, compassion and a stress free environment.  No matter where you have been thus far, and no matter who you are or what you desire for your family, you will find a positive, relaxed and non-judgmental staff to welcome you at La Jolla IVF.

 

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Gina Feletar RN, PC, ELI-MP

www.therebelcoach.com

 

*Please see our website for pregnancy rate details

1 Comment

  1. Bonnie Raffa on May 22, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Nice! Thanks so much!