Stress Makes Getting Pregnant Twice As Hard – Study

Many factors can contribute to preventing a woman from becoming pregnant and one of such is stress.

A new study published online in the journal Human Reproduction, shows a link between stress and difficulty conceiving by measuring an enzyme found in the saliva. Women who had higher levels of this enzyme had higher level of stress and infertility.

This research spearheaded by Courtney Lynch, a reproductive epidemiologist at Ohio State University College of Medicine said women who had the highest levels of alpha-amylase would struggle twice as hard to fall pregnant during a 12 month period compared to those who had the lowest amounts.

Findings from the study showed that the effects of stress usually started when the couple had been trying for at least five months. Women’s odds of falling pregnant when they initially started trying were fairly similar in regards to their alpha-amylase levels. After a five month period, however, the likelihood of women falling pregnant dropped if their alpha-amylase level started had risen significantly.

The study was published online 24 March 2014 in the journal Human Reproduction and looked at 401 US couples who had no prior history of infertility and had been trying for less than two months.

Stress and infertility

To effectively measure stress researchers assessed the women’s alpha-amylase and cortisol levels – both are biological indicators of stress.

Male and female participants kept a journal which they updated daily on their stress levels.

Two saliva samples were taken during the 12 month study with the first taken the morning after they had enrolled in the study. This was before they ate, drank, smoked or had brushed their teeth. These habits have the ability to influence alpha-amylase production.

The second and last sample was collected the morning after the women had their first menstrual period during the study.

Of the 401 couples who completed the study, 347 of them became pregnant in the year.

From the findings it was shown that women with the highest alpha-amylase levels had a 29 percent less chance of falling pregnant. Cortisol levels of women however showed no impact.

Indications of cortisol are seen more in chronic stress. Differences in cortisol levels seen in a saliva test may not have showed up due to the study analysing saliva data in the early months exclusively.

Managing your stress

The role that stress may play in infertility, and the mechanism by which it may influence a woman’s chances of having a baby, are complicated.

Couples who are struggling to fall pregnant may feel more stressed which affects their sex life, however, researchers found no evidence which showed this to be a factor for struggling to conceive.  Lynch’s study suggested that if a couple still weren’t pregnant after five to six months then this could be an indicator of the woman’s stress level.

She advised such women to look into stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, regular physical activity and breathing exercises.

Lynch further advised that relaxation exercises were beneficial but there were none that worked better than another and it was entirely up to the individual.

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“Stress Makes Getting Pregnant Twice As Hard – Study”

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