The connection between stress and infertility


Every day during our reproductive medicine consultation we find patients with mild to severe stress levels. Infertility still on the increase worldwide, and in recent years the rate of miscarriages too. We are observing that stress has become a very common illness for everyone.


This interferes enormously with the reproductive area, causing pathologies on the normal functioning of the reproductive system in both women and men. One of the reasons in women is the lack or decrease levels of progesterone.


Progesterone is a very important hormone during the preparation of the uterus lining before the embryo implantation, and during pregnancy. A constant exposition to stress will cause progesterone levels to decrease. This decrease will come with alterations in the normal cycle.



When woman are exposed to stress, the adrenal glands will produce more cortisol and adrenaline. In order to produce cortisol is necessary the use of progesterone. This will decrease the availability of progesterone, because it needs to be used by the adrenal glands in order to make more cortisol.


The adrenal glands cannot produce cortisol without the use of progesterone. For this reason, when exposed to any stress situation the adrenal glands will make use of progesterone to produce cortisol, and this will cause an imbalance on the adrenal gland/s functioning and progesterone availability. As a consequence there will be alterations in the uterus and its preparation for the embryo implantation and maintenance of pregnancy. It is a complete disruption of the normal-balanced cycle.


Every time we are exposed to stress it is necessary to think: “it is really worthy? I might end up using all my progesterone to produce cortisol because I am under stress”. Some women also use progesterone supplements to deal with some of the side effects caused by lack of progesterone (hot flushes, malaise, insomnia, headaches, mood change, premenstrual pains, etc.) The continuous use of these supplements will eventually caused a fatal and total disruption in the normal functioning of the adrenal glands. The best way would be to avoid situations of stress and try to enroll on a program that can be of benefit to control any stress situation in a given moment. For men under stress there are also other factors that interfere with their fertility causing abnormal semen parameters. There is a strong relationship between stress and lack of testosterone in males. And changes in the germ cells are observed with increase of oxidative stress.




If you are a patient looking to conceive or receiving treatment already, is necessary to talk to your doctor regarding any stress situation you are going through. This may have a huge impact on your results. Your doctor will be capable of comparing the hormonal results with your current stress situation, and provide you with guidance and advise to keep a balanced lifestyle during the treatment.


Hormones need to be measured during the hormonal cycle in the woman (FSH, LH, estradiol, and progesterone). These hormones evaluate ovarian reserve, and any pathology involved in the cycle. Also a measurement of adrenal hormones is performed (cortisol, insulin and DHEA). They can have a strong relationship with patient’s exposure to stress levels.


Elevated cortisol increases the production of insulin, associated with obesity, diabetes, elevated blood pressure and heart problems.


The healing process starts by making the decision to stop worrying and having so much stress in your live. Your body needs to restore to its normal balance. A mind-body program has worked wonders to reduce stress and to give patients the opportunity of getting the ultimate goal of becoming parents.