High levels of a stress-indicating substance is associated with a lower chance of becoming pregnant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Ohio State University and the University of Oxford. Their study was published in Fertility and Sterility (2010; doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.06.078).
The researchers charted ovulation cycles of 274 English women aged 18–40 who were trying to conceive. Subjects used at-home fertility monitors and collected salivary samples that investigators then used to measure cortisol and alpha-amylase levels. Women with high alpha-amylase levels were less likely to conceive than women with low levels. No correlation was found between cortisol levels and chances of conception.
“This is the first study to show an association between a biomarker of stress and a reduction in women’s chances of conceiving through the fertile window—underscoring the importance of considering stress when attempting to identify the determinants of conception,” said researcher Cecilia Pyper, MD.
“Overall, the 25% of women in the study who had the highest alpha-amylase levels had an estimated 12% reduction in getting pregnant in each cycle in comparison to women with the lowest concentrations,” said the study’s lead author, Germaine Buck Louis, PhD, MS, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research. Buck Louis added, “Additional research may be needed to determine whether relaxation techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, yoga, or increasing social support can assist women having difficulty conceiving.”
For more information on the Institute’s research, go to www.nichd.nih.gov.