Advanced insights into the potential impacts of stress on human reproductive health will be reported at the 2022 Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) starting on Thursday.
The Congress will hear of profound interaction between chronic and sustained stress and hormones, including those influencing fertility with potential long-term consequences regarding childbearing.
Indian neuroscientist, Dr Vidita Vaidya, will highlight psychological and social stress factors such as relationship problems, financial and employment pressures, and family care issues that are increasingly prevalent in life today.
ASPIRE is a task force of clinicians, scientists, nurses and counsellors involved in the management of infertility and assisted reproductive technology in the Asia Pacific region.
The four-day ASPIRE Congress in virtual format will link specialists from more than 100 countries to address the physical and psychological obstacles facing couples striving for parenthood and latest advances in infertility treatment with outcomes that will help shape the future of assisted conception internationally.
Dr Vaidya, from the Department of Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, described stress as any condition that disrupts homeostasis, the body’s ability to regulate physical and physiological processes that allow steady and balanced health.
“Physical and psychological stress responses have been beautifully fine-tuned by evolution with the goal to revert back to homeostatic balance,” she said.
“But if disrupted, it creates a vicious loop that can be chronic and long-lived. It can have a profound effect on multiple hormonal pathways, potentially resulting in reduced growth and development of oocytes, amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) and reproductive dysfunction.
“Maladaptive stress responses that prevent an individual from being able to restore a homeostatic balance can also be triggering factors for conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and complex metabolic disorders.”
Dr Vaidya said cell disruption and damage in the hippocampus of the brain – which she described as the hallmark of conditions such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder – could be addressed by actions including an enriched lifestyle environment, exercise and pharmacological antidepressants.
“But an individual can be hijacked by stress that cannot be managed or quickly switched off,” she said.
“Such stress related disorders are directly linked to disorders that include reproductive dysfunction and failure.”
Dr Vaidya said couples experiencing infertility, including those seeking IVF and associated technologies, could experience sustained and chronic stress in their quest for parenthood.
“From what we understand from pre-clinical research, it is also clear that the capacity to handle stress is enhanced if it is something one can predict and one senses that there is an ability to control it,” she explained.
“From this perspective, the availability of trained counsellors and a frank discussion of the possibilities of reproductive failure, and the associated stress, would enhance stress coping abilities and facilitate the ability to navigate this stress.
“Building support for this aspect into assisted reproduction is immensely valuable.”
For more information on the on-line ASPIRE 2022 Congress, go to www.aspire-2022.com