stress and fertility

how stress impacts fertility

stress and fertility

We’ve all heard it before, you need to reduce stress as it can impact your fertility. Is it true stress can impact your chances of getting pregnant. And if so, how exactly does stress impact fertility?

There is plenty of research demonstrating how our mind impacts our body. This is true for fertility as well. An Oxford University study* shows stress significantly reduced the probability of conception each day during the fertile window. 

The same is true for IVF. A Harvard Medical School study** demonstrated how women that participated in a mind-body programme alongside IVF had over double the success rate of those that didn’t (52% v 20%).

There is a growing body of research like this that suggests stress does impact fertility and chances of getting pregnant.  

*Fertil Steril, 2011;95:2184–9., 2011by American Society for Reproductive Medicine
**Domar et al. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility. Vol. 95. No 7. 2011.

IVF Fertility Treatment
Staying relaxed during IVF treatment

How does stress impact fertility?

Yes the mind and body are one system, but when I first looked in to this I wanted to understand it a deeper level.

I originally trained as an engineer and I guess you cannot take the engineer out of the therapist – although I often think they are very similar, I just now help people to re-engineer their mind!

Conception is one of the most delicate systems in human body. It requires a delicate cocktail of hormones that need to be in balance and continuously changing throughout the cycle.

You have probably heard of many of the hormones involved and may well have had test after test checking their levels. But did you know many of these hormones are produced by the brain? 

Our fertility hormones are produced (and levels managed by) the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland also produces and controls the levels of stress hormones.   

The science

1. The hypothalamus is an area of the brain, kind of in the middle at the bottom. The hypothalamus produces pulses of the hormone GnRH to stimulate the pituitary gland which a walnut sized glad at the base of the brain. The manner in which the GnRH is released by the hypothalamus dictates what the pituitary gland does. If the pulses of GnRH are far apart, the pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Closely spaced pulses of GnRH cause the pituitary gland to generate lutenizing hormone (LH)

2. In response to GnRH activity, the pituitary gland begins production of the hormone FSH. FSH stimulates the ovaries and causes an ovarian follicle to begin to mature. Each ovarian follicle contains an ovum (egg). As the follicle matures, it produces hormones to automatically reduce FSH production.

3. As the follicle matures, FSH levels decrease. The maturing follicle produces estrogen which feeds back to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then changes the GnRH production frequency and causes the pituitary gland to begin producing lutenizing (LH) hormone instead. LH is responsible for triggering ovulation (as well as regulating testosterone levels in men and women).
4. A surge in LH levels causes the mature follicle to release its egg (ovulation). Home ovulation predictor kits detect the LH surge to identify ovulation. The egg proceeds down the fallopian tube awaiting possible fertilisation.
5. The portion of the follicle that remains after ovulation is the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces the hormone progesterone which feeds back to the hypothalamus/pituitary gland to reduce LH levels.
6. Progesterone also causes the uterus to prepare for possible implantation. The presence of this hormone also causes a the elevated shift in body temperature which can be charted as a way if tracking ovulation
HCG hormone is produced by the developing embryo if the fertilised egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. It prevents the corpus luteum from degenerating so that progesterone and estrogen levels will remain high. HCG is the hormone detected by home pregnancy tests.
Unless pregnancy results and HCG is produced, both progesterone and estrogen levels fall as the corpus luteum degenerates. This causes the body to prepare for menstruation and the start of another cycle if pregnancy does not result.
Stress can impact fertility of men as well. In men, testosterone and sperm production are regulated by LH and FSH (also produced by the pituitary gland in men). This was certainly the case for me. As I reduced my stress my fertility improved.

your mind

There is plenty of research showing how our mind impacts our body. The mind-body link has been studied for decades and the studies show how our biology actually changes as a result of our mind. This is also true when it comes to IVF success. 

A Harvard Medical School study* demonstrated the positive impact a mind-body programme along side IVF can have on IVF success rates. Those women that participated in a mind-body programme alongside IVF had over double the success rate of those that didn’t (52% v 20%).  

There are plenty of apps that help you with your mindset and be more mindful. I also recommend finding some friends who you can vent to and share how you are feeling in a safe place where you will be listened to and understood. Even if it’s an online support forum.


*1 Domar et al. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility. Vol. 95. No 7. 2011.


Turn YOUR 2WW into a Two week thrive!

Turn your 2WW into a two week thrive!




Fear and anxiety is future thinking. Come back to the here and now. It’s the only moment that exists! 



Connect your body and embryo. Imagine what you want it to do in this moment.



What’s often below fear and anxiety is a judgement of yourself. Love yourself. Nurture yourself. You are worth it.



Don’t let Project Baby take over life. Bringing flow to life brings flow to your body.

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IVF Coach
Russell Davis
FERTILITY Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist

My wife and I had a 10 year journey of infertility resulting in having their son against all odds. Russell now helps others get into the best psychological state to maximise their chances of IVF success. 

Russell’s personal experience echoes his belief that too many couples go through fertility treatment unnecessarily and that the success rate of treatment is unnecessarily low. Whether natural or assisted conception, Russell has helped hundreds of couples all over the world create their family. 

Russell is a therapy supervisor and Registered and registered under the UK Governments Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) adhering to their strict code of ethics.