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Episode 77 - The link between stress and fertility

Françoise Molenaar

Feb 22, 2024

Stress can have a significant impact on fertility because it affects various systems in the body, such as the immune system, sleep patterns, digestion, and muscle tension. On this episode of the podcast, I discuss these links in more detail. I also outline an action plan for you with short-term and longer-term strategies that you can use to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your ‘rest and digest’ state of being) on a regular basis to create the balance you need to conceive from a place of love, trust and surrender. This episode will not make you feel bad about the stress you may experience in your life but will provide you with the tools to help you get out of a chronic state of stress.

Stress has a significant impact on fertility by affecting crucial systems in the body:

The immune system

Chronic stress can trigger an overactive immune response, resulting in inflammation. An increased level of inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP) has been linked to unsuccessful conception cycles, irregular menstrual cycles, and unsuccessful fertility procedures.


Increased stress can lead to sleep disruptions, causing difficulties in falling asleep, nightmares, and heightened nighttime restlessness. According to research, sleep disruptions have been linked to menstrual irregularities, longer conception periods, increased miscarriages, and lower birth weights. 

Gut health

Stress directly impacts gut health by increasing glucose in the gut and decreasing digestion. This glucose spike prompts the body to produce insulin, which can interfere with egg-maturing hormones. The resulting decrease in the production of these hormones significantly affects the ovulation process and can contribute to increased levels of hormones such as testosterone, a known factor in the development of conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, which in turn can inhibit fertility.

Muscle tension

Stress can lead to muscle tension, particularly when the stress response is constantly engaged. This persistent tension can affect blood flow, including to key reproductive organs. Studies have shown that women with unexplained infertility often exhibit restricted blood flow to the ovaries and uterus compared to fertile women. 

Short-term relaxation techniques

To work with the parasympathetic nervous system and regulate stress, short-term responses can be useful. Paced breathing, where you breathe in and out for five seconds, helps activate the parasympathetic response and refocuses the mind on the present moment. Shaking it off or dancing helps release tension from the body and calm the mind. Using the power of smell, such as inhaling lavender essential oil, can trigger relaxation.

Longer-term relaxation techniques

In the longer term, setting boundaries is essential to reduce stress levels. Learning to say no and prioritizing self-care can help prevent overworking and burnout. Co-regulation, the ability of the nervous system to respond to the nervous systems of others, can be achieved through social interactions, massages, or participating in women's circles. Resting instead of distracting oneself with activities like yoga, meditation, or engaging in creative outlets can also be beneficial for stress reduction.

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