Today, a long article in Huffington Post Australia talks about the effects of stress on fertility and also the stress of IVF. They quote research showing how stress interferes with fertility by preventing the actions of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) - a key reproductive hormone. At the same time, research from the University of California Berkeley shows that stress increases release of the Gonadotropin-Inhibitory Hormone (GnIH), which further impedes the actions of GnRH.
Nature definitely trying to ensure that Mum doesn’t conceive in a less than ideal situation. It’s also worth noting that even if you were to conceive under very stressful conditions, your baby is going to pay the price of having a stressed Mum. In 2013 University of Pennsylvania elucidated exactly how an unborn baby’s brain is affected by maternal stress, which reduces levels of a particular protein that is important for the baby’s brain development.
That paper was published in March 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and its authors stated "Maternal stress is a key risk factor for neuro-developmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism." This is especially the case for male offspring and if the exposure to stress occurs in the first trimester. Which of course raises the importance or reducing your stress levels before you get pregnant! That first trimester can be over before you realise it and effective stress-reduction doesn’t happen overnight.
Of course none of this research is exactly new, even though elucidation of specific mechanisms might be. I’ve been writing about the importance of reducing preconception and maternal stress for more than thirty years. The key is not to let stress drag you down because there’s one certainty - the more stressed you become, the less able you are to deal with it. This is especially true if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while and because most of the things that you turn to in stressful situations like alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and high-sugar snacks and drinks not only exacerbate the problem, but should now be on the “must avoid” list. Reducing stress and worry is one of the the greatest gifts you can give your unborn baby. Becoming that Zen Mum will pay long-term dividends. Relax and chill out. Get cracking on whatever stress-reduction methods you can muster. Healthy Parents, Healthy Baby has lots of ideas and prospective Dads will benefit too. Many more tips in my brand new 5-Point Better Babies 10-Module Webinar Series.