LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 13 (UPI) -- New research shows stress has a significant effect on whether a woman gets pregnant.
Researchers at the University of Louisville found high levels of stress around the time a woman ovulates decreases the chance of pregnancy by more than 40 percent, according to a study published in the Annals of Epidemiology.
Linking stress levels to potential for pregnancy is not new, as a 2014 study showed high levels of stress can make women about one-third less likely to get pregnant and make them twice as likely to meet the clinical definition of infertility.
While that study measured biomarkers for stress in saliva, the new study is based on self-reporting of stress levels, as well as other aspects of life including menstruation, intercourse, contraception, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. The new study suggests psychological perception of stress, independent of chemical verification, can influence the likelihood of pregnancy.
"Some individuals are skeptical that emotional and psychological attributes may be instrumental in affecting fertility," Dr. Kira Taylor, an epidemiologist at the University of Louisville's School of Public Health and Information Sciences, said in a press release.
For the study, researchers recruited 400 women age 40 and younger to complete daily diaries tracking stress and other lifestyle and behavioral factors for up to 20 menstruation cycles or until they got pregnant.
While 139 women got pregnant during the study, the researchers report that for a 1-unit increase in self-reported stress during a woman's ovulatory period, the potential for pregnancy decreased by 46 percent.
"These findings add more evidence to a very limited body of research investigating whether perceived stress can affect fertility," Taylor said. "The results imply that women who wish to conceive may increase their chances by taking active steps towards stress reduction such as exercising, enrolling in a stress management program or talking to a health professional."