Diagnostic Pages The Fertile Soul


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Diagnostic Pages

STRESS AND INFERTILITY


DESCRIPTION

Stress is not an infertility diagnosis in and of itself, but it is a very significant, clinically-documented major contributing factor.

SYMPTOMS

If you tend to sweat more than normal, have cold, sweaty or clammy hands and/or feet, especially when you feel anxious or under stress, if you have consistently dilated pupils, tend to grind your teeth or have tension headaches, and find that you have trouble breathing deeply, these symptoms are indications of stress.

Stress can manifest as a sawtooth, erratic temperature pattern on the BBT chart, indicating that there is not enough hormonal regulation to normalize the cycle. Women who exhibit erratic menstrual patterns or no pattern at all to their menstrual cycles often have stress-driven infertility-one month the cycle may last thirty-five days, and the next month it may be twenty-six days. They may have severe premenstrual signs some months, and other months almost none.

WESTERN MEDICAL TREATMENT

Some Western fertility doctors encourage stress-reduction programs at the periphery of their practice, but few acknowledge it having any significant role in your overall fertility or the outcome of a particular procedure. Worse, often Western medicine's approach to treating infertility, and the treatment processes, labels and statistics it employs, may actually exacerbate the stress of the fertility journey for patients.

DISCUSSION AND ROOT CAUSES

We at The Fertile Soul believe that stress is one of the most under-diagnosed contributing factors to infertility.

We live in a world of ever-faster and ever-increasing work pressures, persistent over-stimulation and less-than-optimal nourishment for our bodies and souls. Our bodies are subjected to relatively continual stress unless we make a conscious effort to live otherwise. And of course this stress is only compounded when you receive a diagnosis of infertility and invest in assisted reproductive technologies without success.

Your body's evolutionary wisdom is that you should not become pregnant when you are under stress. When you are under stress, its priority is to keep you out of danger. Being responsible for a developing fetus would put you and your baby at great risk of survival. Mammals In the wild don't go into heat when they are facing a lot of stress.

When you were an embryo, your ovaries, kidneys and adrenal glands developed together and formed a triad that continues to prioritize their functions throughout your life. The adrenal gland rules this triad. When you face stress, tension or a threat, the adrenal glands respond by shifting into fight or flight mode to protect you. This response is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system. When it becomes hyper-stimulated, your heart rate accelerates, your blood vessels constrict and your blood pressure increases. Your system pumps out cortisol to provide your brain with instant energy. Your bones and muscles are flooded with blood.

When your adrenals glands are firing, your body sends less blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, which are not essential to survival. Adrenaline helps us to escape from danger, but it also inhibits our ability to utilize progesterone, which is essential to our fertility. In times of stress, the pituitary gland also emits higher levels of another hormone, prolactin. Prolactin is also released to stimulate lactation in preparation for nursing and it has the effect of inhibiting fertility so that a woman won't become pregnant again too soon while still nursing an infant.

Your body is designed to prioritize the resources it requires for survival over reproduction. This would not be a problem for fertility if survival needs were experienced as temporary. However, when stress is a constant presence in our lives as a result of work tension, lack of restful sleep or an inability to achieve our desires, the adrenal glands remain in a state of continual alert. In this scenario, the reproductive system does not function efficiently.

We cannot be in fight mode and receptive mode at the same time-the body won't allow it. And rarely can assisted reproductive technologies overcome it. When you calm the stress response and the adrenal gland settles down, resources can be diverted back to the uterus and ovaries to restore your fertility.

The Fertile Soul diagnostic process can help you understand the sources of your stress and how to eliminate or minimize their impact on your life and find new treatment hope.

EASTERN MEDICINE DIAGNOSES

Stress hyper-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and upsets the regulation of internal energies-Chinese medicine refers to this condition as Liver Qi stagnation. Liver Qi stagnation leads to a build-up in internal pressure and heat. Erratic menstrual patterns are attributed imbalances in the Liver system of energies and their associated endocrine effects.

NATURAL TREATMENT

The remedy for Liver Qi stagnation is to remove obstructions and soften the liver energies so the Qi can flow freely. This is accomplished with meditation, deep breathing exercises and stimulation of acupoints such as Yintang, Lv 3, Lv, 8 and Lv 14.

Calcium and magnesium supplements can settle and support the nervous system and custom-prescribed herbs calm the spirit and move the Qi.

Rarely do you face true threats to your survival. Thus, your stress response is the result of your body's perception only, which is too extreme for the trigger. If you are consciously or unconsciously responding to your life situations as if your very survival depends on their outcome, your must retrain your body to understand that you are not in immediate danger and teach it to respond more suitably.

First, you may wish to eliminate as many of the external stressors in your life as you are able to. Ultimately, how you choose to live your life is largely your decision, and you are probably able to change almost everything about it if you wish. If your job is causing you a lot of stress, change it. If certain people are causing you stress, consider avoiding them for a while. If you're doing too much, taking care of too many people, and are stressed about it, figure out ways to cut back.

Reclaiming your fertility may require you to turn attention back to yourself, possibly for the first time in a long time, and rediscover stillness. This may feel unusual to you, but it is essential if you are to change your relationship to stress in your life.

Reclaiming your fertility may require you to turn attention back to yourself, possibly for the first time in a long time, and rediscover stillness. This may feel unusual to you, but it is essential if you are to change your relationship to stress in your life.

SUGGESTIONS FOR MANAGING STRESS

  • Exercise, including Qi Gong, yoga and Tao Yin exercises taught at Fertile Soul retreats.
  • Meditate.
  • Employ Qi Gong meditative breathing techniques whenever possible.
  • Sit down when you eat.
  • Eat frequent, small meals to keep the blood sugar level more stable and inhibit the release of adrenaline.
  • Chew your food sufficiently, mixing enough saliva with the food to make digestion easier.
  • Drink a lot of water, but not during a meal.
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine or smoke cigarettes.
  • Begin following the Spleen Qi dietary guidelines described in Chapter 6 in The Infertility Cure.
  • Use herbs which move the Qi, like peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, turmeric and thyme.
  • Supplement with a custom Chinese herbal formula to resolve Liver Qi stagnation (available from a Fertile Soul or TCM practitioner).
  • If your prolactin levels are high, take Hordeum Vulgare.
  • Perform the acupressure techniques taught at Fertile Soul retreats and in The Infertility Cure to balance the Liver Qi.

Subtle endocrine and hormonal factors triggered by your state of stress may be affecting your ability to conceive. It is important to identify the origins of your imbalances in order to treat and remedy them at the source. The good news is that subclinical infertility often responds quickly to very small changes in health and balance.

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