Stress may contribute to infertility
According to new research published this week out of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, women under long-term stress are 29 percent less likely to conceive and more than twice as likely to meet the clinical definition of infertility.
The link between stress and pregnancy risk has already been proven by clinical research, and doctors have long held that long-term stress can have a definite affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
The research, which is published in the journal Human Reproduction, tracked more than 500 women, ages 18 to 40, who were free from fertility issues and just beginning to try to conceive. The subjects were followed for 12 months or until they became pregnant, with saliva samples collected regularly to test for alpha-amylase and cortisol, two known indicators of stress.
“This is now the second study in which we have demonstrated that women with high levels of the stress biomarker salivary alpha-amylase have a lower probability of becoming pregnant, compared to women with low levels of this biomarker,” says Dr. Courtney Dennin-Johnson Lynch, the study’s principle investigator. “For the first time, we’ve shown that this effect is potentially clinically meaningful, as it’s associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women
The researchers conclude that women who are having difficulty getting pregnant consider reducing their stress through meditation and even close friendships. However, doctors agree it is important couples experiencing difficulty not blame themselves, adding even further to their stress.
“Stress isn’t the only factor in the ability to conceive, but the findings of the study make sense,” says Dr. Stephen Locher, obstetrician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “In our practices, we oftentimes see a correlation between ovulation and stress. It’s nice to see research evidence on the subject, as this is an important topic for our patients.”
Dr. Locher says he’s long believed that stress plays a part in a woman’s ability to get pregnant, but it’s been a subject that’s been difficult to prove scientifically.
“This research adds to the importance of having a multidisciplinary approach to the issue of infertility,” he says.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.