Stress Can Increase The Risk Of Infertility

There has been growing concerns that stress can increase the risk of infertility for women. A growing awareness of the vital importance of good nutrition to help women conceive has been appreciated for sometime. However, there has not been as much of an emphasis on relaxation as being important to help women conceive. New research suggests that stress can increase the risk of infertility in women. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility, reports the journal Human Reproduction. Researchers were interested in exploring whether or not a women’s stress levels are prospectively associated with fecundity and infertility.They discovered that higher levels of stress as measured by salivary alpha-amylase are associated with a longer period of time to pregnancy and an increased risk for infertility.

Previous data have suggested that stress and reproduction are interrelated; however, the directionality of that association has not been clear. In this study from 2005–2009, 501 couples were enrolled in a prospective cohort study with preconception enrollment at two research sites in Michigan and Texas, USA. These couples were followed for up to 12 months while they attempted to conceive and through pregnancy if they were successful getting pregnant. A total of 401, or 80%, of the couples completed the study protocol and 373, or 93%, had complete data available for this analysis.

The women enrolled in the study collected saliva the morning after their enrollment and then the morning after their first observed study menses for the measurement of cortisol and alpha-amylase. These are biomarkers of stress. Out of the 401 women who completed the protocol, 347 became pregnant and 54 did not. It was observed that the women in the highest tertile of alpha-amylase exhibited a 29 percent reduction in fecundity in comparison with women in the lowest tertile.

This reduction which was seen in fecundity translated into a greater than 2-fold increased risk of infertility among these women. There was however no association observed between salivary cortisol and fecundability. It has been highlighted that this is the first US study which has demonstrated a prospective association between salivary stress biomarkers and time-to-pregnancy and the first in the world which has observed an association with infertility.

Preconception stress is associated with an increased risk of infertility, reports The Ohio State University in a review of this research. Problems getting pregnant can be a very stressful experience for any couple. For the first time researchers now have data which suggests that preconception stress might play a role in problems with infertility, as reported in the journal Human Reproduction.

Courtney Denning-Johnson Lynch, who is director of reproductive epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and colleagues have discovered that women who have high levels of alpha-amylase, which is a biological indicator of stress measured in saliva, are 29 percent less likely to get pregnant each month and they are more than twice as likely to be infertile. The clinical definition of infertility means not getting pregnant in spite of 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse.

Lynch has said, “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.” Lynch goes on to clarify that for the first time it has been shown that this effect is potentially clinically meaningful, due to the fact that it is associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women.

Lynch says that the results of this research should encourage women who are having problems getting pregnant to consider managing their stress using stress lowering techniques. Some good natural suggestions are:

1: Yoga

2: Meditation

3: Mindfulness

It appears reasonable to assume that this research is clinically significant. I have observed intense anxieties and depressive symptoms among couples who are having trouble conceiving. Too much stress is associated with these emotional problems and problems getting pregnant which aggravates the emotional problems even further. In order to increase their chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy child women should be advised to eat well, exercise regularly, sleep well at night, avoid alcohol and illicit drugs, and learn to relax more. A more stress free lifestyle should make life more pleasant, sex more enjoyable, and getting pregnant easier.