Can stress cause infertility?

Yes, says new research based on 501 couples in the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study between 2005 and 2009. It found that women who had the highest levels of the stress marker alpha-amylase also had double the chance of infertility.

The study, in the journal Human Reproduction, followed a group of female participants between 18 and 40 years old with no known fertility problems. Over 12 months, of the 401 women who completed the trial, 347 (87%) became pregnant and 54 (13%) did not.

Based on saliva samples, the women with the highest levels of alpha-amylase had a 29% lower chance of becoming pregnant each month, compared with women with the lowest levels. The women with the highest indicated stress levels were more than twice as likely to meet the clinical definition of infertility, which is not conceiving despite 12 months of regular, unprotected intercourse.

Stress reduction is no guarantee of fertility success, of course. But women having trouble conceiving may nevertheless wish to investigate stress-reduction methods such as yoga or mediation to help them during this time.

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