Heart set on coming a Mom (or Dad) and having difficulty getting pregnant for no apparent reason? Now could be the time to look at stress as a possible cause – because numerous studies now point to the fact that high levels of stress can seriously impact fertility and your chances of conceiving. 

For most of us, having kids is one of the most fundamental parts of our lives – they give us meaning and allow us to grow by giving and receiving love through life’s most beautiful moments and greatest challenges. Children keep us young! They are our most meaningful legacy.

But what happens when you can’t get pregnant and satisfy this most fundamental expression of love and happiness? Often it’s a roller coaster ride of anxiety, doctors and specialists, and experimenting with diets and possibly fertility treatments. In time, it can lead to serious depression and emotional distancing from our partners. Life gets turned on its head and our beautiful lives can become hollow and meaningless.

What if the culprit for your problems is simply – stress? What if you could do something meaningful to limit the stress and get pregnant?

Can Stress Lower a Woman’s Fertility?

Recent research conducted at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences suggests that stress lowers a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, particularly stress that occurs around the time of ovulation.

“If you are feeling more stress than you usually do (around ovulation time), you are 40 percent less likely to get pregnant that month,” said study author Dr. Kira Taylor, assistant professor of epidemiology and population health. 

Taylor’s team did not look at why stress affected conception at the time of ovulation. But, she speculated that “stress disrupts the signaling between the brain and the ovaries, and reduces the chances of ovulation.”

Another study conducted at Ohio State University and published in the Journal of Human reproduction found that high levels of pre-conception stress more than double the chances of a woman failing to get pregnant after 12 months of trying. 

Researchers measured levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme in saliva that provides a biological indicator of stress. Women with high levels of the biomarker were more than twice as likely to be declared infertile.

Study leader Dr. Courtney Denning-Johnson Lynch commented, “This is now the second study in which we have demonstrated that women with high levels of the stress biomarker salivary alpha-amylase have a lower probability of becoming pregnant, compared to women with low levels of this biomarker. For the first time, we’ve shown that this effect is potentially associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women.”

Sandra Berga, MD, chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University in Atlanta estimates that about 5 percent of all women at any given time have stopped menstruating because of stress. “But that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she says. Many other stressed-out women may have irregular periods or may go for months without menstruating. Berga also noted that stress can disturb the timing of a woman’s cycles. She may end up ovulating a few days before menstruating which is very bad timing for trying to get pregnant.

Emotional stress also seems to reduce sperm counts in men. A study published in the Journal of Reproduction and Infant Psychology found that couples were less likely to achieve pregnancy if the man was depressed or had low self-esteem.