Study Finds That Stress Levels in Women Can Impact Infertility

A new study by researchers at Ohio State University, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Texas Health Science Center has found that stress can play a significant role in a woman’s fertility. The study examined more than 400 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who had just decided to try to have a baby. The women had no known fertility problems at the onset of the study. The women were monitored for 12 months, or until they became pregnant.

Saliva samples were taken from the women and analyzed for two stress biomarkers, cortisol and alpha-amylase. Results showed that women who had higher levels of alpha-amylase took 29 percent longer to become pregnant than women who had low levels of the stress indicator.

clynchCourtney Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at the Wexler Medical Center at Ohio State University and the lead author of the study, stated women often get pregnant while on vacation and women with infertility problems often become pregnant after they decide to adopt. Dr. Lynch’s results show that reduced stress levels may not be a coincidence when women become pregnant. However, Dr. Lynch notes that stress levels are only a minor factor in the overall infertility problem. Physical problems in women and their male partners usually are the reasons behind infertility.

Dr. Lynch has been on the faculty at Ohio State University since 2008. She holds a master of public health degree from Ohio State and a Ph.D. in maternal and child health epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University.

The article, “Preconception Stress Increases the Risk of Infertility: Results From a Couple-Based Prospective Cohort Study—the LIFE Study,” is available on the website of the journal Human Reproduction.

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