Doctors are divided over the importance of stress in infertility and yet stud-have shown that it can affect a man’s fertility to the point where not only the count is reduced but also the quality of the sperm, with abnormal sperm and decreased motility.
Stress can also affect a man’s hormone balance, lowering his levels of testosterone and luteinising hormone.
The release of the stress hormone prolactin in response to a crisis can affect a woman’s ability to conceive and in extreme cases can stop her ovulating. It seems to be nature’s way of protecting women from getting pregnant at a time when they would find it hard to cope. Women going through a bereavement or other kind of trauma for instance can stop having periods altogether.
Couples trying for a baby often experience high levels of stress, particularly if medical intervention is required. The longer it takes, of course, the more anxious you may become – and the more chance there is of stress inhibiting your fertility. A number of studies show that if a woman becomes totally obsessed with having a baby she may release eggs which are not mature enough to be fertilised.
There are many anecdotes concerning couples who have given up fertility investigations, put their names down for adoption, and then found themselves pregnant. One lady I saw gave up work to have a baby and got so bored that she decided to find another job and then got pregnant. Other women may find that the stress of the job they are doing may be affecting their fertility. We are all so different and what affects one person may not trouble another – ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’.
Many couples find that they conceive on holiday when they are relaxed and have forgotten about all their domestic worries. Infertility is clearly a multi-factorial problem, which is why this book looks at all the possibilities, not only the physical aspects (such as hormones and nutrition) but also the psychological and emotional side.