A new study has found that stressed-out women are at an increased risk of infertility, which reduces their chances of getting pregnant by around 30%.
Courtney Denning-Johnson Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and colleagues found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase – a biological indicator of stress measured in saliva – are 29 percent less likely to get pregnant each month and are more than twice as likely to meet the clinical definition of infertility, compared to women with low levels of this protein enzyme.
Researchers tracked 501 US women ages 18 to 40 years who were free from known fertility problems and had just started trying to conceive, and followed them for 12 months or until they became pregnant as part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study.
Saliva samples were collected from participants the morning following enrollment and again the morning following the first day of their first study-observed menstrual cycle.
Specimens were available for 373 women and were measured for the presence of salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol, two biomarkers of stress.
Lynch, the principal investigator of the LIFE Study's psychological stress protocol, said that the study shows that women with high levels of the stress biomarker salivary alpha-amylase have a lower probability of becoming pregnant and it's associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women.
Lynch said results of this research should encourage women who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant to consider managing their stress using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
However, she said that couples should not blame themselves if they are experiencing fertility problems, as stress is not the only or most important factor involved in a woman's ability to get pregnant.
The study is published in the journal of Human Reproduction.