According to a recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction, researchers have discovered a connection between women with high levels of a stress biomarker and an increased risk of infertility. Although doctors have theorized about the role stress plays in infertility for years, this is the first study to provide scientific support.
“Stress, if very significant, can cause women to have difficulty ovulating,” said Dr. Larry Barmat, an OB/GYN who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Abington Reproductive Medicine. “Severe stressful situations will cause irregular ovulation or prevent ovulation and reduce one’s fertility.”
When meeting with a patient who’s having trouble conceiving, Dr. Barmat said one of the first things he determines is whether or not the woman is ovulating. If she is ovulating and is under stress, it becomes more difficult to determine the true impact of stress on fertility because stress is so difficult to gauge objectively. Everyone responds to stressful situations differently; someone may not appear stressed, but internally his or her stress hormones can be high.
If a woman is not ovulating, it’s clear that stress is playing a role in the issue and that it should be controlled. While there are a number of potential causes of stress, undergoing fertility testing and therapies is definitely one of them. Other factors such as work, marital stress and other personal life stresses might cause anxiety as well.
As a result, it’s imperative that patients and their doctors find ways to relieve stress to improve their chances of getting pregnant. At Dr. Barmat’s practice, the role of stress in infertility is taken very seriously. To help patients, they offer counseling by social workers and psychologists, support groups and more. They also refer patients to acupuncture (some women find that it’s an effective method to reduce stress) and music therapists, which they found helped reduce stress and improved pregnancy rates during a study conducted at Abington Memorial Hospital.
Whatever the approach, it’s important that the stress is properly managed. And as more research is conducted, doctors hopefully will learn more about the ways in which stress influences fertility, and how they can better help patients.
(Source: Abington Health)