What is stress?
The NHS describes stress as a reaction to mental or emotional pressure, “It’s often related to feeling like you’re losing control over something, but sometimes there’s no obvious cause”. For men struggling with infertility a feeling of losing control is to be expected and this may cause added stress and anxiety. Although we are still learning about the potential effects of stress on the body, there are a few different ways stress can make conception difficult. Here at Fertility Family, we looked at the impact of stress on male fertility and offer some helpful tips to overcome stress.
Stress and fertility
It is normal to feel stressed at different times in your life and the period of trying to conceive is no exception. This is especially true if you are struggling to conceive. In fact, a 2018 study showed that “infertile patients experience a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil as the result of their diagnosis. The risk of depression, anxiety, and distress is high for infertile patients.” A recent article in the Guardian shows how this can be particularly difficult for men, uncovering a lack of consideration by medical professionals who give the news to men very directly. Finding out news that your sperm needs improvement can be really distressing and further support needs to be given to these patients when diagnosed.
So, we know that having fertility problems can cause stress among men but is it just a one-way street? Or can stress be the cause of male fertility problems?
There have been multiple studies which have explored the relationship between those who have a more stressful lifestyle and the quality of their sperm. An increasing amount of evidence seems to suggest that the quality of semen is negatively affected by high stress.
A study from over a decade ago concluded that ‘occupational stress can affect the male semen quality’ but added the caveat that the results must be confirmed by more extensive studies. In 2014 another study investigated 193 different male patients and showed there was a correlation between life stress and sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
Erection problems (impotence) are very common, particularly in men over 40. ED has been shown to be inherently related to stress. In fact, the NHS confirms that ED is ‘usually caused by stress’ and a problem which most men go through at one point or another. The stress of trying to conceive, as well as other external influences, can influence your performance in the bedroom. It is extremely common and usually nothing to worry about, a few small changes in lifestyle can help to address this.
If you are unable to get an erection and have reason to be concerned, always speak to your doctor first as there could be underlying medical issues. Do not try to deal with erectile dysfunction on your own.
Reducing your stress
The feeling of stress is often overwhelming and can feel hard to control. Our daily responsibilities are often a contributing factor to feeling stressed and like many other problems, it takes time and dedication to manage and find a way to cope with stress that works best for you. Here are some ways that may help alleviate stress:
Be assertive and take control
It’s easy to convince yourself that you cannot solve your problems and bury your head in the sand. However, doing this will only add to your stress. Taking on bigger problems by breaking them down into smaller manageable tasks is a good way to get started.
Cut back on your workload
Taking control of problems does not mean you should just keep adding to your workload. Make a conscious decision to delegate some tasks at work or at home. If you find yourself working overtime, then explain to your boss and colleagues how you are feeling and go back to working normal hours. Asking for help from friends and family is another good option to help manage things if you are overwhelmed. Speaking of friends and family…
Spend time with others
Men are far more likely to withdraw and even isolate themselves when they are struggling with infertility, finding it difficult to speak openly about feelings of stress and anxiety. Spend more time with those close to you and talk to them about what you are going through and how it makes you feel, it may take a load off your mind and help you to feel better. Sometimes it can be difficult to open up to someone you know and you may feel more comfortable speaking to others going through a similar experience that you don’t know personally. FNUK have set up a “Men Only” online support group, offering informal online sessions led by fertility and wellness experts. You can also find support on closed Facebook groups and other online forums to connect with others going through a similar experience.
Being active has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help to regulate your sleep pattern which can help manage stress levels. The exercise does not have to be overly strenuous for you to feel the benefits. Yoga, walking or light work at the gym would offer you the benefits here.
Tips to get started:
- Carve out dedicated time in your diary to exercise, set a routine and start small, rushing into big lifestyle changes will make it difficult to maintain.
- Do not do it alone, engage friends and family to join in and book sessions together or even invest in a personal trainer.
- Have fun! Exercise should not be stressful, that defeats the point. Try new things to find the right activity for you. A couple of things you enjoy and that are manageable and sustainable long-term.
Improving sperm quality
If you are reading this and aiming to improve your sperm quality, then Impryl could be the solution you are looking for. Impryl is different to standard male fertility supplements on the market. It contains a unique combination of activated micronutrients which have been carefully selected in order to provide optimal support for sperm development without causing any harm. Studies have shown that the micronutrients in Impryl do not only improve sperm quality but also improve pregnancy and live birth outcomes in sub-fertile men. We recommend taking Impryl daily for a minimum of three months to help boost sperm quality before trying to conceive or undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) such as IVF.