Trying for a baby? Stress reduces fertility in women new study finds 3 years ago

Trying for a baby? Stress reduces fertility in women new study finds

Stress is a major problem.

It is so common these days, it is almost seen as a bit strange not to be stressed out and under pressure. However, this is bad (bad!) news for our health and wellbeing. Especially since experts are now saying stress reduces fertility in women.

Stress, in fact, messes with our bodies like you wouldn't believe, from our sleep to our hormones, it is all negatively affected when our bodies experience extended periods of stress – or worse; chronic stress.

And now it seems stress is also keeping us from conceiving if you are trying for a baby.

According to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), researchers finds higher levels of stress are associated with lower odds of conception for women, but not for men.

The researchers used data from the Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), an ongoing preconception cohort of North American pregnancy planners that follows couples for 12 months or until pregnancy, whichever comes first. For the new study, the researchers followed 4,769 women and 1,272 men who did not have a history of infertility and had not been trying to conceive for more than six menstrual cycles.

"Although this study does not definitely prove that stress causes infertility, it does provide evidence supporting the integration of mental health care in preconception guidance and care," says BUSPH doctoral student Amelia Wesselink, the study's lead author.


The researchers measured perceived stress using the 10-item version of the perceived stress scale (PSS), which is designed to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overwhelming an individual finds their life circumstances. The items referred to the past month, with five response choices ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (very often), up to a total of 40, with a higher total score indicating a higher level of perceived stress. Both partners completed the PSS at baseline, and women also completed the PSS at each bi-monthly PRESTO follow-up. The baseline questionnaires also included a range of demographic and behavioral factors, including race/ethnicity, household income, diet, sleep, and frequency of intercourse.

On average, baseline PSS scores were about 1 point higher among women than men, and the average follow-up PSS scores among women remained fairly constant over the 12 months that they participated in the study.

The researchers found women with PSS scores of at least 25 were 13 percent less likely to conceive than women with PSS scores under 10. This association was stronger among women who had been trying to conceive for no more than two menstrual cycles before joining PRESTO than among women who had been trying for three or more cycles before enrolling. The association was also stronger among women under 35 years old.