Can stress interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant? You might be surprised to find out just how much of an impact stress has on a woman and their ability to get pregnant.
Stress and Pregnancy
According to a study published in Human Reproduction, chronic stress could indeed cause fertility issues. This study followed 500 couples who were trying to conceive over 12 months. Women who enrolled in the study were instructed to collect saliva samples every morning so that researchers could measure levels of two important stress biomarkers: alpha-amylase and cortisol.
After 12 months, research found that 87 percent of the women became pregnant while 54 percent did not become pregnant. After adjusting for age, income, ethnicity and the use of cigarettes, caffeine, and alcohol, researchers discovered that women with the highest levels of alpha-amylase (approximately 30 percent of subjects) did not become pregnant. However, authors of the study note they did not find a correlation with “fecundability (the probability of becoming pregnant in a specified time frame) and salivary cortisol.”
Stress and Your Body
Stress hormones released during activation of the nervous system prepare your body to either “flee or fight” perceived stressful events. In the past, the only way doctors could measure cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones were via urine and blood tests. Recently, scientists have discovered that when analyzing saliva samples of people suffering chronic stress, levels of the digestive enzyme alpha-amylase are significantly higher compared to people not under stress. For reasons yet unknown, high amounts of noradrenaline and adrenaline in the body are associated with an increase in alpha-amylase.
Hormones, Stress, and Fertility
Two theories prevail today regarding the affect stress has on infertility. One involves interruption of the release of hormones essential for menstrual regularity and ovulation. When menstrual cycles are delayed or absent (anovulation), women have greater difficulty determining when eggs are released. In addition, there is ongoing research into the possibility that chronic stress may negatively impact the ability of fertilized embryos to implant themselves in the uterus
The other theory involves examining how stress causes intimacy issues in a relationship or marriage. Couples facing a series of stressful situations tend to be exhausted, preoccupied, and less interested in intimacy, which naturally reduces the chance of a woman becoming pregnant.
Does Stress Cause Infertility or Does Infertility Lead to Increased Stress?
Similar to the question of which came first “the chicken or the egg”, this question prompts evaluation of the directional relationship between infertility and stress. If a woman tries to conceive but fails to do so in less than six months, does the added stress of worrying about fertility actually cause infertility? The clinical definition of infertility states that a woman is not considered infertile until she has tried to get pregnant through sexual intercourse for at least 12 months. Unfortunately, many women experience extreme stress when trying to get pregnant but failing to do so after only a few months.
An interesting study investigating the impact of problems conceiving and stress found that a group of women undergoing in vitro fertilization provided with stress reduction education had higher conception rates than women undergoing IVF who did not receive stress reduction education.
How Should Women Address the Issue of Infertility and Stress?
No one can avoid dealing with stress in their lives. Learning how to reduce and cope with stress, however, is critical to your overall health and well-being. Couples trying to get pregnant should never blame themselves for infertility exacerbated by stress. In fact, women continue to give birth even under the most stressful conditions such as war, lack of food or water, and civil instability. This means even if a woman takes steps to reduce stress in her life, her fertility may not increase due to undiagnosed medical issues.
Seeking Help From Professionals
Viera Fertility Clinic offers a comprehensive variety of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, IUI, fertility drug therapies, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and embryo assisted hatching. If you are having difficulty conceiving, we can help you find the right technology that would best suit your needs. Schedule a consultation appointment or contact us today to learn more about our fertility services.