Have you ever noticed your cycle and flow change when you're stress levels are particularly high?
In clinic I see women who's cycles can suddenly become very long, or very short, who's PMS symptoms suddenly get a lot worse, who's menstrual flow is suddenly much heavier or much lighter...
As much as we don't want to use 'stress' as the scapegoat for every ailment, when you see a sudden change to your cycle - stress is often the culprit.
One of the biggest issues here is - so many women simply don't notice or 'see' when their stress levels have been too high for too long. It can be hard to identify when stress has climbed to a point where its causing physical and emotional symptoms.
Signs your stress levels ( and cortisol) is high
Feeling tired but wired
Sleeplessness and insomnia
Midsection weight gain
Persistent anxiety and racing thoughts
Poor stress tolerance
Blood sugar imbalances
Brain fog and mood swings
Signs your stress levels has been too high, for too long,
Persistent unexplained fatigue.
Waking unrefreshed after a good night's sleep.
Muscle aches and joint pains
Tiring easily after minor exertion.
Decreased capacity to handle stress.
Under stress, our adrenal cortex is stimulated to produce cortisol. While cortisol is often thought of simply as the “stress hormone,” it actually plays some other important roles – it helps us maintain our blood glucose, acts as an anti-inflammatory, influences our blood pressure.
Cortisol production is fundamental for health and our ability to function under stress.
The problem is, we're not well designed for this 21st century lifestyle of busyness, rushing, deadlines, too little down time, too many toxins, financial stress, too little exercise, too little sleep... all cause signalling for cortisol too often.
Eventually it catches up with us, this is called HPA Dysfunction.
HPA dysfunction is where after periods of chronic and repeated stress, the system begins to respond poorly with cortisol peaks too high, for too long, at the wrong times, and eventually it “burns out” and fails to respond to signals to release cortisol.
How stress ( and eventually HPA dysfunction) can mess with your cycle
When we look at stress and ovulation, chronic elevations in cortisol can inhibit GnRH production from the hypothalamus, which affects particularly LH secretion in the pituitary.
🚫This can then delay or stop ovulation in the ovary (remember that LH is the signal from your brain telling your body to ovulate).
🚫In the ovary itself, stress-induced levels of cortisol have been shown to impair egg cell functioning.
🚫In IVF studies, fluid from follicles containing eggs that did not fertilize had levels of cortisol significantly higher than the levels in fluid from follicles containing successfully fertilized egg cells.
That shines a whole new light on the fundamental importance of stress management doesn't it.....
What you can do about this!
You're going to need to be patient with yourself as you begin to create new habits and allow the time for your brain and adrenals to reset and re-balance. It took a long time to get to this point, and its not going to be resolved in a week or two!
4 Steps to begin reducing the impact of stress on your fertility
1. Prioritise sleep and rest
I know you'll have heard it before, but the foundations of good sleep are so important in the way your perceive and respond to stress. I'm sure you can think of a time or two where you might have over reacted to a small trigger. 8 hours of sleep most nights will improve your stress response
2. Choose food carefully
Its time to back off the refined carbohydrates, the sweet sugary food and the caffeine. What your body needs most now is regularly spaced meals with 4-5 veggies, a lean protein and some healthy fat. Meals like these provide the nutrients your adrenals need most - Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin C, B complex vitamins
3. Build a stress-busting, fertility boosting routine
Choose from a few of the proven stress reduction techniques my clients use to reduce cortisol and improve stress adaptation, and commit to practicing them daily.
The 4-7-8 breath technique -
Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
Hold for 7 seconds
Then exhale out of your mouth for 8 seconds making a whoosh sound
Repeat 3 times
Listening to a guided visualisation or meditation, my fave free Apps to use-
4. Using botanical adaptogens to reset and thrive
The first 3 steps provide the foundation for improving adrenal health and cortisol production. Carefully chosen adaptogenic herbs is the cherry on top of your adrenal recovery. You'll enjoy faster results with herbs like Withania, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Schisandra, Rehmannia and Siberian Ginseng.
Stress can make such a big impact on your fertility journey, which is such a kicker because trying to conceive and not getting your positive has got to be one of the most stressful, overwhelming and exhausting times in our lives.
Jump on the waitlist for Well Conceived, my signature online fertility course, where I take you by the hand and guide you through my proven method to break through fertility barriers and finally get pregnant.
You'll receive powerful tools and tips to successfully leave stress behind and thrive on your way to baby!