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Fasting and Fertility | Catholic Life

Fasting and Fertility

First of all, yes this is serious, and no, this isn’t about abstaining from sex, it is about fasting from food. And I’m not talking about fertility signs that one must chart in order recognize, though obviously those are great to consider too, if you’re the charting sort. Secondly, part of me thinks that no one will respond, but do remember that anonymous comments are fine. You can even call yourself things like NotASAint to make up for publicly admitting to penitential practice, okay?

Please talk to me about fasting and fertility.

It only recently occurred to me that it makes sense for fasting to impact a woman’s fertility cycle. Obviously if one is experiencing a shock of not eating meat and dairy and/or dramatically reducing calories, one’s body is likely to respond in many ways, among them going into starvation mode and delaying ovulation.

I don’t think that I shock my body enough or reduce calories enough to have fasting impact my fertility directly (at least not these days, and I didn’t pay such close attention back in the day when I fasted more). But one way that it might impact me is stress. Required fasting is incredibly stressful for me. I continually have to figure out what is appropriate in order to both be penitential and still do all of the things that I need to, and I am not yet adept at balancing different needs for food and fasting in one kitchen.

Fasting is so much easier for me outside of Lent, because there are basically no rules. Even though there are times when I eat far less than what is allowed/suggested for Lenten days, it is easier. At times it can be stressful to try to figure out what is most appropriate for me on any given day, it is at least less stressful than having the whole YOUMUSTFASTTODAYORELSEYOUAREINDANGEROFMORTALSIN thing hanging over my head. Seriously, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fill my heart with dread and my mind with stress.

And my body shuts down. Then I am somehow shocked by the fact that it magically starts back up again once we return to feasting and leave our fasting far, far behind.

Of course that is just my best recent guess of how things play out in my body. I don’t actually know which factors of fasting impact fertility, and whether it is that direct. But there does seem to be something there, and I am really very interested in what others have noticed in this area.

I don’t care if you’re male or female and speaking from personal experience or random abstract hypothesizing. Just tell me what you know about fasting and fertility!

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4 Responses to “Fasting and Fertility”

  1. Young Mom 30. Apr, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    I know that stress can effect cycles, as well as eating disorders. So it makes sense that fasting could effect it as well. I can’t say I have a whole lot of experience ( I seem to be pretty fertile no matter what, but maybe it just seems that way since I’ve never charted) but I have a sister who struggles with annorexia/ compulsive dieting and her cycles are all over the place.

    • Rae 01. May, 2011 at 5:03 am #

      Thank you!

  2. Christy 14. Jun, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Just found this post – I know it’s a little late to reply! Haha.

    I am in recovery from an eating disorder, and Ash Wednesday and Good Friday freak me out as well, because it brings me right back to those days of restricting – and false control. Although I haven’t been practicing any e.d. behaviors for a few years now, the mental aspect still gets to me. I try now to observe the traditional guidelines for those days, but before I’ve nearly had to ask for dispensations from priests for those days to substitute one type of fasting for another.

    I’ve never gotten so low in my weight to have it affect my fertility, so I don’t know how it works for you, but stress for sure delays my ovulation quite a bit. It makes sense, though – if you’re body is starving (or thinks it is) it’ll delay/stop ovulation so as to not conceive so the baby won’t be harmed from lack of nutrition.

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