So how does stress affect reproduction? Well, here’s the science.
Daily stress and social pressures accumulate and can easily develop into chronic stress. Sometimes we don’t even realise the amount of pressure we are putting on ourselves – operating in a constantly high stress state which can begin to feel normal. These pressures, known as psychosocial stress, activate the body’s stress response causing a complex hormonal cascade in order to help and protect the body from a real or imagined threat (fight or flight). These hormones act upon receptors in various organs and tissues which are protective in the short run, however damaging when overproduced or not sufficiently shut off. With continued exposure to stress, this process is continously being triggered which leads to dysregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. This then compromises the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis and suppresses the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which synthesises and controls a complex process of follicular growth, ovulation, and progesterone production.
Basically stress leads to alterations in the endocrine system by disturbing or suppressing hormonal signaling between the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) and the ovaries and testes due to the excessive release of stress hormones. These systems need to stay balanced to function properly.
We know that lifestyle factors such as diet, excessive exercise and stress can influence the menstrual cycle and ovarian dysfunction exists on a spectrum. Unexplained infertility can very easily be an imbalance in the endocrine system lower down on the spectrum which can’t easily be identified.
Suppressed GnRH drive is often the cause of infertility; however GnRH is highly variable with measurements varying from day to day meaning ovarian compromise lower down on the spectrum, may not be picked up and could be diagnosed as unexplained infertility.
Unfortunately infertility and the failed attempts to conceive can themselves lead to stress and anxiety, exasperating the situation and a reciprocal relationship can develop between infertility and psychological factors.
So what’s the evidence of stress reduction therapy for infertility?
Dr Berga and her team have conducted many clinical trials demonstrating how stress reduction interventions such as hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can successfully return ovarian function. One of her studies using hypnotherapy as an intervention to treat women, who had ceased menstruating, resulted in 75% of the women resuming menstruation within a twelve week period, bringing the endocrine system back into balance. However, all women reported feelings of increased wellbeing and self-confidence. Dr Berga said that although the study involved women whose monthly cycle had stopped, the findings may apply to other women who have fertility problems which are harder to discover because they still menstruate.
Another recent study with 554 couples using hypnosis as a treatment intervention for unexplained infertility showed a 71.67% success rate. The therapy firstly focused on general stress relief and then on specific identified stressors relieving the psychosocial stress.
Dr. Berga said that it is quite possible there are many individuals who could benefit from stress reduction in terms of infertility therapies, and that they also know that if you address the stress, you can actually see a return of ovarian function and the brain message to the ovary.
Stress reduction therapies have also been shown to improve clinical pregnancy rates for couples receiving assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment. A recent systemic review collating 39 individual studies which used stress management therapies during ART, demonstrated improved pregnancy results. One of the hypnosis studies reported that it doubled the in vitro fertilization embryo transfer (IVF/ET) cycle outcome in terms of increased implantation and clinical pregnancy rates. Another study reported that hypnosis was as effective as diazepam in helping to reduce stress prior to embryo transfer but without any of the side effects and should be routinely available during IVF treatment.
Stress reduction therapy
Just being in hypnosis is deeply relaxing as it activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the relaxation response – it signals, “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed”, and that’s exactly what we want.
Call (210) 325-1567 today.
How it Works
We will initially schedule three sessions ($379). In the first session, I will do a complete history and assessment and also guide you into your first hypnosis session. the second and third sessions, are devoted to targeting specific issues and setting goals for progress. You will experience hypnosis in each session. Although I do work with individuals (both men and women with fertility issues), I encourage couples trying to conceive to attend all sessions together. Couples hypnosis is highly effective, and allows you and your partner to share the experience and strategies for conception.
At the conclusion of the third session, we will determine if we have accomplished that which is necessary or we will decide of further sessions to continue your progress.