Women who reported feeling highly stressed during their fertile window were 40 percent less likely to conceive in that particular cycle, compared to less stressful months, according to a recent study from the University of Louisville, published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.
The participants who reported feeling most stressed were also about 45 percent less likely to conceive than women who were less stressed.
The study followed 400 sexually active women under 40, who self-evaluated their daily stress levels on a scale from one to four. The participants’ diaries also recorded menstruation, intercourse and contraception, as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and caffeine consumption.
The women were followed until they became pregnant, or until the study ended, for an average of eight menstrual cycles.
In a press release from the university, one of the study’s co-authors 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.
A 2014 study from Ohio State University’s Columbus Wexner Medical Center, which measured biomarkers for stress in saliva, also found preconception stress to be associated with an increased risk of infertility.
What you can do to reduce stress
If you are suffering from high levels of stress, reducing stress may not only increase your chances of getting pregnant — it will benefit your health on many levels and set you up for a happier and healthier pregnancy. Here are a few things you can try.
- Get enough sleep. We all know the importance of sleep, but 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep and the statistics are similar in many other countries. An extra hour of sleep every night can be a very efficient way to reduce stress — and it’s totally free. (As an added benefit, getting enough sleep might also improve your sex life.)
- Exercise. Physical exercise is good for your mental as well as your physical health, and it does reduce stress. Even if you’re just walking, try to fit at least 30 minutes of exercise into your day, every day. Your future pregnant body will thank you, too.
- Relaxation techniques. These may include deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. If you lack experience or motivation, try joining a class or finding an online resource. Circle + Bloom is a series of fertility- and pregnancy-specific programs to help women relax and enjoy the journey to conception.
- Read a self-help book. We warmly recommend Happy on Purpose: Daily Messages of Empowerment and Joy for Women, but many others are available too.