Stress Doubles Risk of Infertility, Study Shows

Women trying to conceive may be able to increase their fertility by eliminating stress from their lives. Researchers have found that not only does stress delay pregnancy, but it also doubles the risk of infertility, according to a news release from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The new study adds insight into previous research that demonstrated an association between high levels of stress and a reduced probability of pregnancy. The findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Researchers were able to tell if a woman was stressed by testing her saliva for high levels of alpha-amylase – a biological indicator of stress. Those who had high levels were 29 percent less likely to get pregnant each month and more than twice as likely to not be able to conceive despite 12 months of regular, unprotected intercourse.

“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,” said Courtney Denning-Johnson Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the news release. “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.”

Lynch said women who are having difficulty getting pregnant should consider managing their stress by taking a yoga class and practicing meditation and mindfulness – all stress reduction techniques. She also said couples should not blame themselves if they are having fertility problems because “stress is not the only or most important factor involved in a woman’s ability to get pregnant,” according to the release.

Another strategy may be to eliminate stressors before trying to become pregnant, rather than trying to ignore stress, said Germaine Buck Louis, director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“The good news is that women most likely will know which stress reduction strategy works best for them, since a one-size-fits-all solution is not likely,” Buck Louis said.

Source: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center news release

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