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Stress and Infertility: Linked or Not?

By HERWriter
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infertility and stress have a possible link Angel Nieto/PhotoSpin

Does stress cause infertility? It depends on which study you read. Some studies show a relationship and others do not.

WebMD wrote dramatic advances in infertility treatments -- particularly in the past decade -- pushed aside stress as a factor in infertility.

Now, however, some doctors are once more looking to the idea that stress may actually play a role in up to 30 percent of all infertility problems.

About.com wrote that according to some sources, stress affects the body in many ways, such as altering the neurochemical makeup which can affect the maturation and release of the egg.

Stress can also cause spasms in the fallopian tubes and uterus, affecting implantation. In men, stress can affect sperm count, motility and lead to erectile dysfunction.

All of this can factor into infertility.

While the exact link between fertility and stress remain a mystery, some researchers believe hormones like cortisol or epinephrine -- which rise and often remain high during times of chronic stress -- play a key role, said WebMD.

Psychology Today discussed research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility which said that women who stopped using contraceptives took longer to become pregnant if they had higher saliva levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase which is a biological indicator of stress.

Specifically, women with the highest concentrations of alpha-amylase were 12 percent less likely to become pregnant each month than those with the lowest levels.

Slate.com said that while the study in Fertility and Sterility found a connection between stress and lower fertility, another article refuted it. Pointing out the link isn’t so clear, since caffeine, food intake, and exercise can also make that biomarker rise.

When Danish researchers reviewed 31 studies on whether stress, anxiety, and depression played a role in whether infertility treatments worked. Their conclusion was that the influence of psychological factors appeared to be “somewhat limited,” reported Slate.com.

In research published in the journal Human Reproduction, doctors compared pregnancy rates in couples that reported being stressed and those who were not, said WebMD.

They found pregnancy was much more likely to occur during months when couples reported feeling happy and relaxed. It was less likely to occur during the months the couples reported feeling tense or anxious.

In Psychology Today, Alice Domar, of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at the fertility center Boston IVF, cited research has shown women who participate in mind/body programs in conjunction with medical treatment have significantly higher pregnancy rates than women who receive medical treatment only.

About.com concurred, saying that several studies show a dramatic decrease in infertility when couples are treated psychologically as well as physically.


Bouchez, Colette. "Stress and Infertility." WebMD - Better information. Better health. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Braverman PhD, Andrea Mechanick. "Stress and Infertility." Pregnancy Week by Week Calendar, Info and Tools | Pregnancy.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Gurevich, Rachel. "New Study Connects Stress to Infertility? Not Quite."Fertility - Infertility - Getting Pregnant - Fertility Treatments - Coping With Infertility. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Parker-Pope, Tara. "Infertility Helped by Stress Reduction - NYTimes.com." Health and Wellness - Well Blog - NYTimes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Richards, Sarah Elizabeth. "Stress and infertility: the weak link between them - Slate Magazine." Slate Magazine - Politics, Business, Technology, and the Arts - Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Scott M.S., Elizabeth. "Stress and Infertility - Are Stress and Infertility Linked?" Stress and Stress Management - Causes, Symptoms, Stress Relief Tips and Stress Tests. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Wheldon, Julie. "Stress may be causing infertility in women | Mail Online." Home | Mail Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Whitbourne Ph.D., Susan Krauss. "New Research on Stress and Infertility | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

"Fact Sheets and Info Booklets/Stress Fact.pdf." www.asrm.org. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Reviewed September 27, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments


I think there is definitely a factor as the mind can play real tricks on the body.

Marielaina Perrone DDS
Henderson Dental Implants

October 5, 2012 - 8:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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