The Effects of Stress (and Saber-toothed Tigers) on Fertility

Effects of stress on fertility | Positive Steps Fertility | Stressed out woman at work

If fertility is medical, why do people tell me to take a vacation to fix it? Would that work for diabetes or cancer?

We’re constantly told that the effects of stress cause infertility, but for thousands of years we were chased by saber-toothed tigers and our species is still around. When research shows stress associated with infertility, ask: Which came first? Large, and arguably better, studies looking at periods of genocide and economic collapse say that pregnancy rates minimally shift in spite of horrible conditions.

Two real effects of stress on infertility

Recognizing exceptions, there are two primary ways stress causes infertility. The first is that if you are so stressed you stop having a period, it is kind of hard to become pregnant if you aren’t releasing an egg. When this happens, it is usually in very thin women/professional athletes. The second is that if you are so stressed you and your partner start fighting and stop having sex, that doesn’t help (the myth of having to have sex every day or every other day is a post for another day).

The fact that stress is unlikely to meaningfully affect fertility is important – if you are stressed about infertility, being told your stress makes it worse then makes you stressed about being stressed. Moreover, vacations are much more enjoyable if you don’t have to think of them in a now or never context. Knowing infertility is not your nerves (or your fault) is an important step to healing on the TTC journey.

We’ll be posting regularly on the intersection of common sense and evidence when it comes to fertility. Talk with your doctor to see if you might be an exception for any of this.


causes of infertility: an overview

When a couple is struggling to conceive, it is usually because something is going wrong in that natural process. Learn about the common causes of infertility in men and women.

What is infertility?