Stress and Fertility

Can Stress Keep You from Getting Pregnant?

If you’re trying to conceive and not having any luck yet, you know that not getting pregnant can stress you out. Starting fertility treatment can also be a stressful time. You may have heard stories from other people about being “so stressed I can’t get pregnant,” or even had people tell you to “just relax, and you’ll get pregnant.” Is there any truth to this? Is there a relationship between stress and fertility?

No Easy Answer

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, (ASRM), the relationship between stress and fertility is not clear. ASRM states, “It is not known whether high levels of stress can prevent pregnancy or affect a woman’s chance of conceiving. We do know that reducing stress provides a better quality of life during times of intense personal challenge.” Research in the past has not found evidence that stress causes infertility. However, many couples feel that stress hampers their efforts to become parents, whatever the evidence may or may not be. Fertility treatment itself can be stressful for many people. Because of this, many fertility clinics offer wellness and stress reduction services to help reduce this stress.

New Research Suggests a Relationship

A new study, published in Human Reproduction in 2014, may have found an indicator that stress is involved in infertility. The study followed 401 women who were trying to get pregnant over four years. The women provided saliva samples which were tested for two stress-related substances: the enzyme alpha-amylase, and the hormone cortisol. They were tested when they enrolled in the study and again when they had their next menstrual period. For the purposes of this study, infertility was defined as 12 months of unprotected intercourse which did not result in a pregnancy. During the study, 347 women became pregnant and 54 did not. As reported in the New York Times, there was no relationship between cortisol and infertility. The women who had high levels of alpha-amylase, a sign of long-term stress, had more than double the risk of infertility.

It Can’t Hurt to Reduce Stress

The Times reported that the study’s lead author, Courtney D. Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at Ohio State University, said that if a woman was having difficulty becoming pregnant, it would be harmless, and might be helpful, to consider stress-reduction techniques. There is no guarantee that yoga, meditation, regular exercise, mindfulness, acupuncture, or other wellness techniques will help you get pregnant. But it can’t hurt! And if you find yourself stressed out or depressed while trying to conceive, consider getting counseling or joining a support group. Taking good care of yourself can only help you when you’re building your family.

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