Does Stress Affect Fertility?

Does Stress Affect Fertility?

A new study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that higher levels of stress may be associated with a lower chance of conceiving a pregnancy for women.

Researchers from Boston University School of Public Health used data the Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), an ongoing preconception study that follows couples in North America for 12 months or until pregnancy, to examine how stress may impact fertility.  For this current study, researchers followed 4,769 women and 1,272 men, who did not have a history of infertility. The participants completed a 10-item version of the perceived stress scale (PSS), which is a questionnaire designed to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overwhelming a person finds their life circumstances.  A higher total score, up to a level of 40, indicates a higher level of perceived stress.

Both partners completed the PSS questionnaire at baseline and women repeated it bi-monthly.  Overall, on average, women’s PSS scores were about 1 point higher than the men’s scores.  Women with PSS scores of at least 25 were found to be 13 percent less likely to conceive than women with scores less than 10.  An association was not found between men’s PSS scores and their likelihood of conceiving a pregnancy.

“Although this study does not definitely prove that stress causes infertility, it does provide evidence supporting the integration of mental health care in preconception guidance and care,” said doctoral student Amelia Wesselink, the study’s lead author.

This results of this study are in line with several others, which have shown that stress may have a detrimental impact on fertility.  My advice to all couples, who are struggling to conceive, it to try to reduce stress if possible.  Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, getting enough rest, and other relaxation techniques may help.  For more information about the impact of stress and other lifestyle factors on fertility, visit our Lifestyle and Fertility page.

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