High stress levels impair fertility in both men and women. High stress (increased cortisol) impairs the hormonal system, the immune system, requires more nutrients and can impair both ovulation and sperm creation.

In our busy lives we are all vulnerable to stress related disorders. We all have a stress threshold. Those with low fertility find themselves caught in a viscous circle. Infertility, in and of itself, is stressful. Many related issues such as the pressures of society, testing, diagnosis, treatments, failures, and costs associated with treatment further exacerbate the stress.

The link between stress and infertility is complex and not fully understood, but is thought to be mediated through our stress hormones.

Stress hormones

Cortisol, like oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone & DHEA is a sterol hormone, made from cholesterol. When our bodies need to produce cortisol, as a response to stress, it becomes the dominant hormone produced. As a result some of the others, namely oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone & DHEA are sacrificed. When cortisol and/or DHEA become unbalanced we lose the ability to adapt effectively to stress. Abnormal cortisol & DHEA levels can result in numerous chronic disease symptoms. Chronic stress therefore causes a condition known as adrenal fatigue or cortisol dominance.

Abnormal cortisol levels have been observed in chronic fatigue, depression, panic disorders, impotence, infertility, PMS, menopause and sleep disturbances.

Long term consequences of elevated cortisol or of a low DHEA:cortisol ratio include fatigue, irritability, dysglycemia, obesity, impaired immunity, and osteoporosis.

Low DHEA has been associated with immune dysregulation, arthritis, osteoporosis, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and decreased libido.

Corrective measures for such hormone imbalances include lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, exercise, relaxation exercises & meditation, dietary changes, nutritional supplementation & hormone therapy.

Adrenal fatigue can be measured by taking an Adrenocortex Stress Profile. Four saliva samples are collected over a one day period at 8am, noon, 4pm, and midnight. DHEA is measured using the 8am sample. Cortisol is measured in all four samples to reveal its circadian rhythm. Elevated cortisol, low DHEA, or a low DHEA:cortisol ratio have been observed in many conditions including infertility.