Apr 03, 2014 6:00 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Have you been having trouble getting pregnant? You may be stressed out.

The findings of a new study link a woman’s infertility with her stress level. The study, published in the March 24 issue of the journal Human Reproduction, is the first of its kind in the U.S. to look at the relationship between stress and the ability to get pregnant.

For the study, researchers looked at 401 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who were trying to get pregnant. A saliva sample was collected from each participant at the beginning of the study, then again after her first menstrual period. The samples were tested to determine the level of two stress-related substances: cortisol and alpha-amylase.

During the study, which followed the women for up to 12 months, 347 women became pregnant and 54 did not. The participants who had high levels of alpha-amylase had the most trouble conceiving.

"The women who had the highest levels of this salivary stress biomarker [alpha-amylase] had a 29% decreased probability of pregnancy over time, and that actually translated into a more than two-fold risk of infertility for them by the end of the study,” lead author Courtney Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells CNN.

The authors of the study note that stress is not the only factor that determines whether a woman gets pregnant. Age is a huge factor, as is genetics. Still, based on the findings, the study’s takeaway is clear: Limit stress as soon as you are trying for baby.

Stress Reducers

"The message is that if you've tried for five or six months and you aren't getting anywhere, maybe you should look at your lifestyle and think about whether or not stress might be a problem for you. And if it is, you might want to consider a stress-management program,” Lynch tells WebMD.

If you are trying to get pregnant, here are five things you can do to limit your stress:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Engage in relaxing activities like yoga
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Talk to someone you trust, or seek professional help if you need it 

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