How Anxiety Can Negatively Impact Fertility
Depression and anxiety disorders are at an all-time high. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older every year. And the numbers are increasing every day.
The search for the right treatment to manage your symptoms and balance your hormones can feel like a nightmare. Should you try prescription anxiety medication? Should you experiment with holistic and alternative health approaches to managing anxiety? How do you work on finding the right treatment while simultaneously working on your personal and professional goals?
Unfortunately, in many ways, the effects of anxiety and depression can be uniquely problematic for women. One key challenge women with anxiety face is the effects anxiety have on your fertility.
Antidepressants and reproductive health
According to a 2017 report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, females were about twice as likely as males to take antidepressant medication. And while it’s wonderful that so many women are seeking the professional medical help that they need, too infrequently are they considering the effects prescription drugs have on their reproductive health.
Well-intentioned health professionals may suggest treatments for which they have a limited understanding on the effects of their fertility.
“Because a woman’s menstrual cycle is tightly controlled by the interaction between the brain, ovaries, and uterus, any health problem or medication that disrupts this communication could adversely affect ovulation and make it challenging for women to achieve a pregnancy,” Alan Copperman, M.D. and director of reproductive endocrinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Parents.com.
Anti-depressants specifically can interfere with the hormonal regulation of ovulation and may elevate hormone levels such as prolactin, according to Parents.com. Women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression or anxiety can take significantly longer to conceive.
Even worse, some research has linked SSRIs, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft, to an increased risk for miscarriage, according to a 2010 study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Anxiety and digestive health
Anxiety can be detrimental to your digestive health — which is particularly important for women trying to conceive. A healthy gut will be able to digest food properly and effectively absorb the nutrients in your foods. Someone with high anxiety will have poorer gut health and increased difficulty absorbing essential nutrients.
The anxiety’s relationship to the gut is important because of neurotransmitters — particularly serotonin, which assists with regulating mood and blood pressure.
About 90 percent of your body’s serotonin is found in the gut, while much of the rest of your serotonin is found in your central nervous system, where it helps to regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It’s all interconnected.
Serotonin also plays a role in gut motility, too little can lead to constipation and improper elimination and too much can lead to fast transit times and inability to absorb nutrients.
According to Claire Cavanagh, a Naturopathic Clinician at Well Aligned Cammeray in Sydney, nutrients (mainly: zinc, folate, iodine, iron and vitamin D) play key roles in boosting fertility. Every part of healthy fertility, from the production of healthy eggs to the development of a growing fetus, requires the effective absorption of nutrients — which can be greatly hindered by anxiety.
Fortunately, there are several ways to take control of your anxiety without letting it take control of you.
Managing your anxiety
Understanding and addressing the effects of anxiety on your reproductive health and your overall health in general is an ongoing challenge. Diet, exercise, exposure to the stressors in your life, sleep habits and so many other factors play a role in managing anxiety. But with ongoing research from reliable sources and consultation with a healthcare professional, you can begin developing a strategy for controlling your anxiety, improving your reproductive health and increasing your quality of life.