By Dr Shobha Gupta
When diagnosed with infertility, many couples feel helpless and no longer in control of their bodies or their life plan. They become stressed. In fact, an estimated one in seven couples in India have fertility problems and mostly there is no known medical explanation. It is believed that 10 per cent of the general population suffers from some form of infertility. Of every 100 couples reporting to fertility clinics, 40 per cent are cases of male infertility, 50 per cent of women and the remaining 10 per cent of both partners being infertile.
Too much stress may cause infertility among women, according to recent research. The study, conducted by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, found that women with high levels of stress were 29 per cent less likely to get pregnant. Meanwhile, men who work in night shifts are affected more as compared to others, as their biological clock gets disturbed. They sleep during the day and to keep themselves awake, they often smoke, which damages the system further. The stress at the workplace and sitting for long hours at work stations is also found to reduce the sperm count.
Factors contributing to stress, which causes infertility are: Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol, drugs, marital disturbance, job or business stress, personal injury or illness, death of close family member, late marriages.
Women with hectic jobs are most at risk and often in denial about the stress in their lives. Let’s take this case study as an example: A 32-year-old woman employed with an MNC experienced her first miscarriage due to stress. She was extremely distressed when she first came to us for counseling. She had undergone IVF treatment at our centre but after a few sessions, we discovered that it was work stress that was responsible.
Stress not only causes infertility, but is one of the reasons for weight gain too. Many times stress may mess up our brain’s reward system and may cause us to crave more fat and sugar. Stress is not a good reason to treat oneself to a burger or chocolate or truckloads of ice-cream. In fact, consuming high-fat foods is more likely to lead to weight gain. Also, when we are stressed, we also may be more likely to drive into a fast-food place, rather than taking the time and mental energy to plan and cook a meal.
These factors contribute in weight gain, which results in obesity which further results in infertility. So, here stress is the major culprit.
How to deal with stress
Women are often found more stressed than men. Trying to get pregnant adds more pressure on already stressed out women. But thanks to technology, we have found treatment for infertility through IVF or IUI. On the other hand, women as well as men are also trying stress management techniques to overcome this problem.
There are numerous methods for decreasing stress available today, including learning relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation and stress management strategies, going for a vacation, deep breathing exercises, etc. Counselling sessions for couples where they can freely speak their mind also helps in overcoming the problem.
Following are a few habits which can definitely help in improving fertility:
1. Sleep is good for you: It is essential to stick to a proper sleeping pattern, at least six to seven hours of sleep every day is very important.
2. No taking office work to bed: Avoid checking mails or taking business calls before going to bed or when you are with your partner.
3. Sex is important too: Having a healthy sex life with your partner works wonders for your relationship, which helps in conceiving too.
4. Quit smoking and drinking: These can create alarming problems and hinder your conceiving.
5. Limit the usage of laptops, computers and phones: Especially during the night, limit the usage of electronic devices as radiation from them harms your fertility big time. Instead of working on laptops to sticking to your phone, invest time in your partner.
6. Seek professional advice: You are the best person to know your body. When you think everything is getting out of control, it’s best to seek a professional’s advice on your fertility.
(The writer is Medical Director and IVF specialist, Mother’s Lap IVF Centre.)