Stress: The Real Reason You Are Not Getting Pregnant
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 6.7 million American women between the ages of 15-44 have an impaired ability to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. The most common cause of infertility is that of anovulation, and while it is definitely a hormonal problem, it is a stress hormone issue before itis a female hormone issue.
The process of ovulation depends upon a complex balance of hormones and their interactions to be successful, and any disruption in this process can hinder ovulation.
In all humans there is a daily rhythm that is created by our exposure to light and dark: this is called our circadian rhythm. What happens daily with our circadian rhythm directly impacts what happens with a woman’s monthly rhythm. What directly impacts our daily rhythm is what we do or don’t do daily. (You can read about your circadian rhythm in detail in Second Opinion’s February 2015 issue or online at secondopinionmagazine.com)
Three primary things cause disruption to our daily rhythm and are all perceived by the body as stress and thus elicit a stress (cortisol) response. They are emotional stress, dietary stress, and pain and hidden inflammation.
A woman’s monthly rhythm involves the two hormones estrogen and progesterone (see the diagram). This monthly rhythm is synced up to what the moon is doing and therefore called a lunar cycle and is usually a 28 day period.
As part of the normal female cycle, the growth hormone estrogen rises in the middle of the month and then drops down just before ovulation. This surge in estrogen causes the uterine lining to grow and an egg to be released from a follicle. Progesterone (“pro gestation”) levels come up in the middle of the month just after ovulation, and they should stay high until the end of the month. In pregnancy it is this hormone that is needed in order for the body to “hang onto” a pregnancy.
When women who are not able to conceive present to their doctor and it is found that they have a problem with ovulation, these women are usually prescribed prescription synthetic hormones that mimic the estrogen surge so that an egg can be released, and progesterone so that they can maintain the pregnancy. These synthetic hormones can come with side effects and are not normally covered by insurance. Moreover they not correcting the real problem—the real problem being an impaired daily circadian rhythm due to overuse of the stress hormone cortisol.
In my practice, I have never had a case where the female hormones went out of balance on their own. My mentor, Dr. Dan Kalish, who has been correcting female hormone imbalances and helping women get pregnant for over 20 years, states that he also has never had a woman present to his clinic where the female hormones became imbalanced on their own. This imbalance is always intertwined with the stress response.
Let’s look at how the stress hormones and the female hormones are connected. There is a hormone called DHEA, and from DHEA all forms of estrogen are made. Then there is a second hormone called cortisol, and cortisol is actually made from the hormone progesterone. Every molecule of estrogen in your body comes from DHEA and every molecule of cortisol in your body comes from progesterone. In turn, DHEA and cortisol are also the stress hormones that are created by the adrenal glands to respond to stress, and progesterone and estrogen are the female hormones made in the ovaries.
The way that the body is rigged is that there is a preferential pathway where the body prioritizes survival over reproduction. So what that means is that if you are under stress, your DHEA and cortisol levels will change and your estrogen and progesterone levels will both drop, and the more stress you are under, the lower the sex hormones go.
This has not changed since we were created or evolved, and it really actually makes sense. Let’s say for example that your tribe is wandering around out in the Sahara Desert and you have no they will not be able to get pregnant because the body will always put survival above reproduction, and when we are stressed we are in survival mode.
Here is a story I use to illustrate this to my infertility clients.
Imagine if you were an alien looking down at New York City for a year, monitoring what was occurring at night, and you saw all these fires breaking out, and every time you saw a fire, you also saw all these red trucks at the fire. You might assume that these guys driving around in the red trucks are starting fires; however, we know that this is not true. We know that the guys in the red trucks are firefighters trying tput out the fires, that they are in fact the emegency response team and are responding to the emergency. This is the exact same thing with female hormones. Female hormones and hormones in general are not the problem, they are the response team to our body’s 911 to any of the three stressors that are starting the fires: dietary stress,emotional stress, and pain and hidden inflammation.
The further one goes from the daily rhythm and the monthly rhythm, the more systemic (not just sex) hormone issues and health issues we have. This is actually good news because “fixing” it and becoming healthy and fertile is simple. In fact it is so simple that mainstream medicine is missing it and trying to fix it by going after the wrong entity. I see it over and over and it works. We test and then correct the daily and monthly rhythm, and then a woman will become fertile. This would be the exact same thing for someone with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pre-menstrual headaches, inability to lose weight, or really any other female-hormone-related problem.
If you are struggling to get pregnant due to infertility, testing and then correcting the underlying cause and putting out the fireis the key to becoming fertile. At the same time, you will become very healthy, and this will directly impact the health of your child. In every case, fixing “the why” is a much healthier solution than chasing the symptoms.
Heidi Toy is a nutritional therapy practitioner, and the owner of Educated Nutrition, located in Altoona, WI. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on autoimmune disorders.