The uterus/womb is a misunderstood yet overwhelming glorious organ. It is here, the wonder of new life begins. It is the quintessence of a woman’s femininity. This little pear-shaped organ is incredibly intuitive and sensitive. She is consistently responding to stimuli from your daily life, always working to make sure that conditions are just right to nurture a little one and stress is one of her worst enemies.
Stress is defined as the body’s response to physical, mental or emotional pressure. This pressure causes chemical changes in the body that raise your blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels. When you're stressed, your body increases its Cortisol ( stress hormone) production. This encourages more blood flow to your brain, some essential organs and to your big muscles to allow you to run away from perceived or real danger. Meanwhile, cortisol diverts blood flow away from the testes, ovaries & uterus ( mainly because these are not considered ‘essential’ organs for your survival in danger).
Notably, hormones like estrogen & progesterone are also made from the same building blocks as cortisol. So if the body needs more stress hormones to cope, then it reduces the amount of fertility hormones it makes. This is ok in the short term however when the stress is chronic ( long-term) these chemical changes become permanent influencing the body's responses vary dramatically.
Traditional Chinese Medicine understands well how human emotions are closely related to organs. When you are stressed, it's your liver that takes the beating causing liver stagnation. The liver’s main function is to store blood and maintain a smooth flow of Qi.
5 ways stress affects your uterus and its functions?
Stress delays ovulation
When you experience high levels of psychological stress, it actually stops the body from completing the ovulation process, delaying ovulation and eventually delaying menstruation as well. If you track your cycle, you may have come across this interplay where in the months you are super stressed out, aunty flo comes a few days late.
Studies have also shown that women who experience chronic or long-term stress may have more severe premenstrual (PMS) symptoms.
Stress impedes conception
Well for starters to conceive, you must ovulate and if stress delays your ovulation then you have a problem. Stress actually significantly reduces the probability of conception each day of your fertile window. Not to mention that when you have decreased pelvic blood flow and hormonal disruption due to stress, it can making timing sex for conception super tricky! If you are trying to conceive, it is very important to avoid stressful situations in the first half of your menstrual cycle..
Chinese medicine also knows that cold feet equate to a cold uterus as the meridians that start in your feet connect to the reproductive organs. Wearing warm socks, especially in colder months, and avoiding walking on cold floors barefoot is good for keeping your uterus warm. You can also use a heat pack on your abdomen prior to ovulation for about 20 minutes a couple of times a day.
Stress affects your sex drive
Ladies, stress pulls a number on your sex drive ( not fun!). High levels of chronic stress are related to lower levels of gential sexual arousal. Women with high stress levels recorded more distraction (psychological) and hormonal disruption factors that affected their sexual arousal, meaning they took longer to get aroused and had a lower sex drive.
Stress affects your pregnancy
As mentioned earlier, when the body is stressed out, it focuses blood flow to the extremities and restricts it to the reproductive organs. It also causes a reduction in the proteins in the uterine lining impeding successful implantation.
Did you know that because anxious/stressed mothers have impaired blood flow through their uterine arteries, they tend to have smaller babies and or preemie babies? Pretty scary! Lower birth weights and preterm babies are a sad reality for pregnant women under consistent chronic stress.
A study also showed that there is a strong correlation between plasma levels of cortisol in the mother and fetus. This raised cortisol may have a direct effect on the development of the fetal brain and affect the child's later responses to stress.
Stress affects your IVF success rate
For all the reasons above, the more stressed out you are the less successful your IVF outcomes. Stress affects your egg production, implantation and development of the fetus; all essential factors for IVF success.
How to stress less, the million $$$$ question!
I know that you might be sitting there wondering how one can possibly escape stress, some situations are totally out of our control and I totally get that. What we do have power over is our response to those situations as well as how often we take time to self-refresh.
If your life is constantly requiring you to give, give, give then you need to prioritise giving back to yourself. Simple ways to do this are:
Yoga, meditation and deep breathing
Making time to spend with loved ones
Your favorite exercise
Spending some time on your fav hobby
Eating clean and healthy to give you sufficient energy
Massage, facials, mani, pedi etc.
This list is endless and you can have fun filling it up with things you would enjoy. The bottom line is while you can't run away from all stress, avoid that which you can and then spend time filling up your cup and as a result you will have a happy healthy uterus ( and rest of the body too :)