Stress really does affect conception

October 1, 2010

Although scientists and clinicians long have suspected that stress influences fertility, a recent study provides evidence that high levels of a biologic marker for stress, alpha-amylase, reduce a woman's chances of conceiving.

Although scientists and clinicians have long suspected that stress influences fertility, a recent study provides evidence that high levels of a biologic marker for stress, alpha-amylase, reduce a woman's chances of conceiving.

The study, conducted by a research team from the University of Oxford, England, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, included data from 274 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 40 years who were trying to conceive. The women provided saliva samples on day 6 of each menstrual cycle, which were analyzed to determine the levels of 2 stress biomarkers: cortisol and alpha-amylase.

Women in the quartile with the highest concentrations of alpha-amylase had a roughly 12% lower chance of becoming pregnant than the women in the quartile with the lowest concentrations of alpha-amylase. No differences in the ability to conceive were associated with cortisol levels.