More American couples report difficulties conceiving. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that at least 1.5 million women were infertile from 2006 to 2010. Although some experts attribute struggles to starting families later in life, that may not necessarily be true. One of the leading culprits may be stress, CNN reports. According to a study slated for publication in the journal Human Reproduction, women with high stress levels showed a “29% decreased probability of pregnancy over time” and “more than two-fold risk of infertility for them by the end of the study.”
Doctors and healthcare professionals agree that stress can easily affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
“It affects a woman’s ability to ovulate every month and therefore her ability to become pregnant. For example, in athletes who often don’t get their period for long stretches of time, they have difficulty getting pregnant,” Dr. Taraneh Shirazian explains to CBS.
Exercising regularly, quitting smoking and drinking, meditating, and taking up yoga, doctors continue, may help lower stress levels.
“The point of the new research isn’t aimed at blaming the victim. One-third to one-half of fertility issues are related to male factors. Reducing stress won’t help if your husband has a low sperm count,” the study’s lead author, Courtney Lynch, tells Time. “There is no current easy test to see who is is vulnerable to stressors, Lynch said, noting that’s a next step in the research,” Time adds.
Shirazian adds that stress also negatively impacted men’s sperm counts. The data, however, is gleaned from stress diaries, and more research is necessary to reach solid conclusions.
Either way, Lynch advises hopeful mothers:
“Stress is not helping you. Whatever you can do to lower that…not only can potentially help you get pregnant faster, but if you start your pregnancy healthier, you’ll be a healthier pregnant woman, a healthier postpartum mother. [Lowering stress] ensures people have as healthy and as productive a life as they’re able to have.”