Conceiving more difficult for stressed women: Study

by | Apr 11, 2014 | Life

Katherine George
Life Reporter


A new study shows stress can double the likelihood of a woman’s chance of infertility.

The study tracked 501 women interested in becoming pregnant aged 18-40 years.

The study was published in the journal of Human Reproduction on March 23 and was conducted by researchers from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Researchers were able to determine stress levels through continuous saliva sampling. The samples were analyzed for biomarkers of stress, cortisol and alpha-amylase.

The study shows high levels of alpha-amylase linked to decreased chances of getting pregnant each month, the study said.

Participants with the highest levels of alpha-amylase had double the chance of not getting pregnant each month at 29 percent. It also means that these women are twice as likely to become infertile, the study said.

The clinical definition of infertility is an inability to conceive within one year of regular unprotected heterosexual intercourse, said Eileen McMahon, nurse practitioner at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Centre for Fertility and Reproductive Health.

One in six people will have a fertility issue, said Jan Silverman, counselor at Create, a Fertility Clinic in Toronto.

However, stress does not cause infertility on its own, said Silverman.

“It doesn’t create a good environment for pregnancy to take place. I don’t think it’s the cause. If everything in your system is working perfectly – you get pregnant,” she said.

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive organs, but there are increasing cases where men and woman suffer from unexplained infertility, said McMahon.

“Like many diseases, certain factors can increase your risk for infertility. For example, smoking, sexually transmitted infections and obesity. Although, a number of other factors are beyond one’s control, like ovulatory dysfunction, endometriosis, and the list goes on,” she said.

Infertility among young adults is estimated to be between seven and 14 percent, said McMahon.

Individuals should find calming hobbies and make healthy lifestyle choices instead of blaming themselves, said Silverman.

The biggest cause of infertility is getting old, she said.

“I certainly don’t want 22 year olds coming in wanting to get pregnant tomorrow. Just be aware that fertility diminishes meaning it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it won’t happen right away,” said Silverman.