Highly-stressed women are significantly less likely to conceive than other women during ovulation window, according to US researchers.
The findings reinforced the need for encouraging stress management techniques in aspiring and expecting mothers, said the researchers.
“I hope the results of this study serve a wake-up call for both physicians and the general public”
They found women who reported feeling more stressed during their ovulatory window were approximately 40% less likely to conceive during that month than other less stressful months.
Similarly, women who generally reported feeling more stressed than other women, were about 45% less likely to conceive, said the researchers from the University of Louisville and Emory University.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology, involved 400 women aged 40 or less who were sexually active and recorded their daily stress levels measured on a scale from one to four – low to high.
The diaries also contained information regarding menstruation, intercourse, contraception, alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
In addition, urine samples were collected throughout the study and women were followed, until they became pregnant or the study ended, for an average of eight menstrual cycles.
The researchers calculated mean stress levels during each phase of the menstrual cycle, with day 14 as the estimated time of ovulation.
They found the negative effect of stress on fertility was only observed during the ovulatory window, and remained true after adjusting for factors like age, body mass index, alcohol use and frequency of intercourse.
Meanwhile, the study also found that women who did conceive experienced an increase in stress at the end of the month in which they became pregnant.
The researchers suggested that women became stressed after taking a home pregnancy test and learning they were pregnant, or most likely the increased stress was the result of changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy itself.
Stress may negatively affect likelihood of conception
Lead study author Dr Kira Taylor said: “These findings add more evidence to a very limited body of research investigating whether perceived stress can affect fertility.
“The results imply that women who wish to conceive may increase their chances by taking active steps towards stress reduction such as exercising, enrolling in a stress management program or talking to a health professional,” she said.
She added that the findings should “serve a wake-up call” that psychological health and wellbeing was just as important as other accepted risk factors when trying to conceive such as smoking, drinking or obesity.