Stress can affect ovulation.
The typical woman in the United States ovulates several hundred times over the course of her lifetime. If an individual begins menstruation at the U.S. average of 12, and has 40 years of fertility, she can expect to have ovulated around 480 times before experiencing menopause. However, many factors, including stress levels, can affect ovulation.
Ovulation refers to the physical process by which a woman’s egg is released from her ovary, transits the fallopian tube, and becomes ready to be fertilized. Physical changes — such as thickening of the uterine lining — occur together with ovulation, so that a fertilized egg has a greater chance of implanting and developing into a fetus. Each woman’s menstrual cycle is different, but on average the typical adult woman has a cycle of between 28 and 31 days between menstrual periods. Ovulation commonly occurs between the 11th and 21st day of this cycle, with the first day of a menstrual period counting as Day 1. An egg only lives for one or two days after being released from the ovary, so ovulation accounts for only a small proportion of a monthly cycle.
Your menstrual cycle can be disrupted by any one of diverse factors. Amenorrhea, or the absence of menstrual periods, can occur in response to sudden or excessive weight loss, high levels of physical activity, pregnancy or specific medical conditions can all cause amenorrhea and a lack of ovulation. Stress can also cause changes to, or complete absence of, the menstrual cycle and associated ovulation.
Effects of Stress
When your body experiences stress, it increases production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline is known for giving a temporary energy boost, such as is experienced during participation in extreme sports. Cortisol increases brain activity, and shuts down certain physical processes that your body thinks are not essential during a time of stress. This can include shutting down the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Cortisol sends a chemical signal that suppresses production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Without normal levels of both these reproductive hormones, ovulation and menstruation will not happen.
Stress and ovulation can coexist in a vicious cycle. If you have been having difficulties becoming pregnant, this in itself can be very stressful. Heightened stress is likely to reduce your chance of ovulating, and therefore also reduce your chance of conceiving. Stress-management techniques from meditation to re-prioritizing your daily schedule can help reduce stress and anxiety.
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Age at menarche and racial comparisons in US girls
2003; Volume: 111; No: 1; Pages: 110-113
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Acute stress may induce ovulation in women
2010; Volume: 8; No: 53
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Home ovulation tests and stress in women trying to conceive: a randomized controlled trial
2012; Volume: 28; Issue: 1; Pages: 138-151
American Pregnancy Association