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Does Stress Decrease Female Fertility?

Can stress decrease female fertility?

March 29, 2019
Bridget Houlihan

In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has discovered a link between stress levels and female fertility. Since everyone experiences some level of stress in their everyday lives, this does not come as great news to couples trying to conceive. There has already been one study done that looked at how stress can affect male fertility-- and those results showed that there is a 47% chance that sperm mobility can be affected by stress. This strongly suggests a link between mental health and our body’s ability to conceive. In this article we’ll look at:

  • The results of this study on stress and female fertility
  • What that means for couples trying to conceive

woman stretching with the sunrise
There is a strong link between stress and female fertility, but there are some ways for couples to reduce stress in their lives.

Stress and female fertility

The Boston University School of Public Health conducted a study aimed to gauge how much of an effect stress puts on female fertility. The results-- while they did not make a concrete link between stress levels and fertility-- did give a glimpse of how important mental health is for preconception care. This study used data collected by the Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO) which follows couples trying to conceive.

The researchers conducted a stress questionnaire along the perceived stress scale (PSS) and had 4,769 women and 1,272 complete these questions at a baseline-- which is on a normal, everyday level. The women also completed them in their monthly follow ups from PRESTO. Their findings showed that women in general had higher stress baseline scores, and continued to feel higher stress levels than men throughout the year.

This means that women in general experienced more daily stress in their lives. The study also included demographic information-- such as race/ethnicity and income level-- and behavioral information as well such as sleep, diet and frequency of intercourse. Any of these factors could have a significant effect on how women experience stress in their lives-- and contribute to the higher numbers seen.

women with open arms and sunrise
Trying to conceive can be stressful enough, but doctors recommend trying to reduce the number of stressors in your life.

What should couples do?

Women with higher stress scores in this study were found to be 13% less likely to conceive then women with a lower stress score. While the results of this study do not directly link stress with fertility in women, there is a strong causation. Other studies have shown a link as well, with the women in these studies who had higher levels of the stress enzyme alpha-amylase were 12% less likely to conceive. Now that we can see there is a link, couples seeking out infertility treatment should make sure to include a plan to reduce some of the stress in their lives. It’s impossible to get rid of it completely-- but there are some things you can start to do that have consistently shown to reduce stress. Doctors recommend you keep a positive attitude, stay active, make sure to enlist individual counseling or support.

There is a link between stress and female fertility levels, so it’s important couples make an effort to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. If stress is reduced, there’s not only a better chance at conceiving-- but it is a healthier way of living.


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