Stress reduces the likelihood of conception

September 14, 2016 Providence Health Team

Women who are ovulating are less likely to become pregnant if they feel stressed, according to a new study.

Researchers already knew that stress limited the likelihood of conception, thanks to earlier work that used biomarkers to measure stress levels. But the new study asked women to report their own stress levels, as well as other details.

The results show that even a woman’s perception of her stress can affect the likelihood of conception.

“These findings add more evidence to a very limited body of research investigating whether perceived stress can affect fertility,” said Kira Taylor, an epidemiologist at the University of Louisville and a co-author of the study. “The results imply that women who wish to conceive may increase their chances by taking active steps towards stress reduction such as exercising, enrolling in a stress management program or talking to a health professional.”

Dealing with stress

Being under stress, especially for prolonged periods of time, is unhealthy in ways that extend far beyond pregnancy.

The National Institutes of Health says there are three types of stress, and each carries physical and mental health risks:

  • Routine stress related to daily responsibilities at work and home
  • Stress triggered by unwelcome change, such as divorce, loss of a job or sickness
  • Traumatic stress, such as when suffering a serious injury or threat, from an assault to exposure to combat

The NIH says reactions to stress vary according to the type of stress and a person’s psychological makeup. Unhealthy stress reactions may include:

  • Moodiness
  • Digestive symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Anxiety

There are many ways to manage stress, depending on its severity, from seeking help from a qualified mental health adviser to taking a yoga class. One of the challenges for people under stress is recognizing the body’s responses to stress, such as difficulty sleeping.

Deeper reading

The new study, “The impact of periconceptional maternal stress on fecundability,” was published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

The University of Louisville issued a press release describing the findings.

A 2011 study, “Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation,” was published in Fertility and Sterility. It is the work that used biomarkers found in the saliva of women to link stress with conception.

The NIH offers a Fact Sheet on Stress, which discusses how stress affects your health and what you can do it manage it.

If you’re trying to become pregnant and feeling stressed, or if you’re simply trying to manage the stress in your life, talk with your health care provider.

If you’re looking for a provider, you can find one in the Providence system here.

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