Looking forward to conceiving, relax!

mother's day special

With the kind of stressful lifestyles we lead today – operating in shifts, meeting deadlines, balancing work and home – most of us are often left wondering ‘how must this constant tension be affecting my reproductive health?’ Well, it’s time to take the bitter pill.

Newer studies are increasingly proving that there is a direct relation between ‘stress and infertility.’ The more anxious you remain, whether that is due to occupational, social, financial or even infertility-related concerns, the further reduced are your chances at motherhood or fatherhood. If you are at an advanced age, that only compounds the problem.

Some time back, resear-chers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, US, tracked 401 women between 18-40 years who were trying to conceive. Saliva samples were collected from the women at the beginning of the study and analysed for two ‘stress biomarkers’: cortisol and alpha-amylase. Those with the highest levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase in their saliva took 29 per cent longer time to conceive, compared to those with lower levels. Such women were also found to be twice as likely to meet the clinical definition for infertility - having unprotected sex for 12 months without getting pregnant - at the end of the study.

Doctors say stress has a direct bearing on the wide range of hormones that complete the process of fertilisation and pregnancy. Dr Shobha Gupta, Infertility Expert at Mother’s Lap IVF Centre, in Delhi, says, “When you are living in stressful conditions, it directly impacts the pituitary gland which is responsible for producing an array of hormones to initiate the process of conceiving. This, then, affects the thyroid gland and ovarian tissues. As a result, the whole ovulation cycle is disturbed, either fewer eggs are produced or their fertilisation becomes difficult. If fertilisation does take place, implantation in the uterus does not.”

The chain of events is not very different in a male body. Again the pituitary gland is distressed which puts a brake on production of male reproductive hormones. Sperm count is adversely impacted, motility of the sperms is reduced, their fertilisation capability is reduced ultimately leading to infertility. “In men, this issue is further complicated by intake of anti-depressants, excess caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Therefore, even though a lot of women come to us with stress-induced infertility, men require additional medications and counselling,” informs Dr Shobha.

The major professions to blame, in this regard, are aviation, Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing-related. Dr Chetna Jain, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon, says, “Those in the flying business are in different cities at different times. That hardly leaves them in a stress-free frame of mind or with any time for their partners. Those in the IT industry or BPOs work in shifts which totally disturbs their circadian rhythm. Their diet also goes for a toss which further contributes to the bad health condition.”

For such patients Dr Chetna remarks, “I simply send them on a holiday. Within a month, in 20-30 per cent of the cases, the woman gets pregnant. TV, internet and mobile are totally prohibited. Romantic movies and spending time with each other is absolutely mandatory. Regular exercise and sleep is important. I advise them not to keep looking at ovulation calendars and kits. Just try to keep it as natural as possible.”

The essentiality of a good diet cannot be overemphasised. Dr Shobha advocates, “One must cut down on junk food. Fresh, leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits and organic food is recommended. Cigarettes, alcohol, food with artificial colours and preservatives must be thrown out of the window.” If you still have problems conceiving, don’t shy away from consulting a doctor, she adds.    

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