Conception takes longer for stressed women

Aug 12, 2010 By Rita Rubin, USA Today

Practically everyone has heard of a couple who, after fertility treatments fail, adopt a baby and then all of a sudden get pregnant.

Those stories have given rise to the belief that it takes longer for stressed-out to conceive, a notion for which there has been little scientific evidence.

But a new study in the current issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility lends credence to a link between stress and time to conception, and not just in couples dealing with .

The study involved 274 British women 18 to 40 years old in the Oxford Conception Study, which examined whether information from fertility-monitoring devices would improve their chances of conception.

They were followed for six menstrual cycles or until they got pregnant, whichever came first. On Day 6 of each cycle, they collected saliva samples.

Researchers measured their levels of alpha amylase and cortisol, two substances that serve as barometers of how the body reacts to physical or psychological stress.

After accounting for couples' ages, intercourse frequency and alcohol intake _ all factors that could influence pregnancy chances _ the scientists found that women with highest concentrations of alpha amylase in the first cycle were 12 percent less likely to conceive than women with the lowest. On average, couples have a 30 percent chance of conceiving each cycle. (Few of the women smoked, the lifestyle factor most strongly linked to time to conception.)

Cortisol levels were not associated with the women's chances of conceiving. Alpha amylase and cortisol reflect two different components of the and don't correlate well, explains lead author Germaine Buck Louis of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Alpha amylase reflects the "fight-or-flight" response to immediate stressors, such as temperature or noise, Buck Louis says.

To confirm the findings, her team is conducting a larger and longer study of women trying to conceive. She says "a handful of very good trials" suggest that stress-reduction techniques can improve pregnancy rates in couples who use in vitro fertilization and related methods.

Meanwhile, Buck Louis says, it can't hurt for women hoping to conceive to try to relax, using whatever approach works for them (except, of course, alcohol or cigarettes). "The beauty is it's such a low-tech solution."

Explore further: Centene plans $6.3B acquisition of fellow insurer Health Net

Related Stories

Getting the bead on conception

Apr 15, 2010

A scientifically-based tool developed by researchers from Georgetown University's Institute for Reproductive Health to help women prevent pregnancy naturally, is now being used by a growing number of women to help plan pregnancy.

Infertile couples encouraged to look at lifestyle

Jul 03, 2009

( -- A University of Adelaide study has recommended that infertile couples seek advice about their lifestyle before embarking on IVF treatment or other assisted reproductive technology.

The surprising power of the pill

Mar 24, 2008

Women who have tried to conceive using in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods are painfully aware that timing is of the essence. There are cancelled vacations, too many sick days taken from work, and the necessity to plan ...

Increasing fertility threefold

Jul 01, 2010

According to the American Pregnancy Association, six million women a year deal with infertility. Now, a Tel Aviv University study is giving new hope to women who want to conceive ― in the form of a pill they can find ...

Recommended for you

Feeling impulsive or frustrated? Take a nap

15 minutes ago

Taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration, according to a University of Michigan study.

Asian-language smoking quitline successful nationwide

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—An Asian-Language Smokers Quitline (ASQ) reaches Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese speakers nationwide, and most callers receive medication and counseling, according to a study published online ...

Many Americans trying to cut their salt intake: CDC

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Worried about links between high daily salt intake, high blood pressure and stroke, half of American adults questioned in a recent poll say they've tried to cut back on sodium.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.