Whether we like it or not, human beings cannot escape the fact that we are part of nature and that we are subject to its laws. When scientific research confirms this there is much surprise and sometimes the next step is to search for a drug to overcome it.
So it was that research has discovered a link between stress and pregnancy.
The women who took longer to get pregnant after stopping the contraceptive pill were found to have higher levels of a biomarker correlated with stress.
Lets get back to basics. Firstly despite sex having other roles in human society, its basic is reproduction. In turn, reproduction is about survival of the species and is a very deep-seated need of humans and indeed all animals. Secondly, the body responds to stress in the same way regardless of the cause. Historically (and this still applies in some parts of the world) the main causes of stress in humans were lack of food, lack of shelter and threats from predators.
Not surprisingly in those circumstances adding more mouths to feed is low on the list of priorities. The body responds to stress in a number of ways and this is largely brought about through release of the “stress” hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
In response to these the heart pumps faster, blood pressure goes up, blood is diverted to the muscles and the body aims to conserve its fat supplies. This is very helpful when taking enemies or if food is scarce. Equally it will make the body less fertile as release of sex hormones may be reduced and the body is directing its energies in other directions.
Today stress for many in the western world comes in the form of financial worries or concerns about work or family. The body reacts to stress in exactly the same way regardless of the cause of stress. It is therefore no surprise that women who are more highly stressed are going to find it takes longer to get pregnant. Indeed one of the stressors can be the “need” to get pregnant.
It is uncanny how often I have seen couples present, being concerned that they have been trying for a pregnancy and not succeeding, who, after some simple tests to confirm that they are “fertile” have a pregnancy before any intervention (assisted fertility treatments) can be started. With the stress of trying to get pregnant removed, the body sorts itself out.
This is not to say that this happens in all couples or that there will never be a need for assistance. It is to say that when we look at things in the context of nature we find they make a lot more sense.
I would also add that many men worry about their sex drive dropping at times. On questioning there are always major stress factors involved. In the same way that the stressed female body is less likely to get pregnant, the stressed male body is less in the mood for sex too.
As we saw above, the body reacts to stress regardless of whether it is a predator or a mortgage. In this context the male body also has hormonal changes and, surprise, surprise, reproduction (more mouths to feed) is not a priority.
Once again when we look at things logically and understand the responses of the body, those responses make sense whether we like them or not (and whether science has caught up or not).
There are solutions. Use stress management methods like meditation, exercise, get adequate sleep and water and follow a good diet (cut processed sugary foods and eat more “real food). The ultimate solution, as always, will be to deal with the actual underlying issues, whatever they may be.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.