COLUMBUS, Ohio – Self-reported
stress, anxiety and depression were not associated with a woman’s ability to
conceive in a study examining the effects of mental health on the ability to
become pregnant, while at the same time looking at stress biomarkers.
The findings appeared online in Fertility and Sterility, an international journal for
infertility and human reproductive disorders.
Dr. Courtney Lynch, director of reproductive
epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, found
no association between scores on any of the stress, anxiety and depression
questionnaires and the ability to become pregnant or the day-specific chance of
pregnancy. There was some suggestion, however, that having high levels of
social support might aid a woman’s chances of pregnancy.
and colleagues, in the first study of its kind, studied 339 women in the United
Kingdom who previously had completed a baseline questionnaire and daily diaries
in which they recorded bleeding, sexual intercourse, smoking and alcohol
consumption for six cycles during the period when they were trying to conceive.
During days six to 26 of each cycle, the women tested urine, and they also collected
a saliva specimen to measure physiologic markers of stress. They also completed
a questionnaire on day six of each cycle.
lack of association between stress, anxiety and depression, and the ability to
get pregnant is in contrast to Dr. Lynch and colleagues’ other work that has
shown an association between high levels of a stress biomarker, alpha-amylase,
and women’s chances of pregnancy.
result was not completely unexpected, as stress in particular has been shown to
be particularly difficult to measure via questionnaire, said Lynch.
would like to be able to have an easy way to identify women experiencing high
levels of stress that might be impacting their fertility,” said Lynch. “Unfortunately,
the well-known screening questionnaires used in the study proved not to be
helpful in that they showed little to no correlation with either of the physiologic
measures of stress that were collected at the same time.”
reason for the lack of association with the ability to get pregnant, Lynch
said, could be that the researchers measured self-reported stress at the
beginning of the menstrual cycle rather than at the end after conception could
have occurred. Perhaps stress at the end of a woman’s cycle is the most
important. Further, Lynch noted that women in her study did not report
particularly high levels of perceived stress, anxiety or depression.
Lynch suggests future
research needs to study women reporting high levels of stress and stress,
anxiety and depression, to collect information on stress and mood during
different phases of the menstrual cycle as well as couples who have been trying
to conceive without success for at least six months, as those women could be
the ones with the highest stress levels.
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Click here for a high-res photo of Courtney Lynch, PhD, MPH
Contact: Gina Bericchia, Medical Center Public
Affairs & Media Relations, Gina.Bericchia@osumc.edu or 614-293-3737