Friday, August 13, 2010

Maternal Mental Health: Can Stress Harm Your Chances of Getting Pregnant?

By Felicia K. Wong, M.D.

Getting pregnant is an exhilarating experience for some couples. But it can also be a very frustrating, and heart-wrenching, experience for others. Age, smoking, obesity, and alcohol are studied and known factors to effect pregnancy success.

Anecdotal reports have long linked stress with infertility, but to-date, there has not been much scientific evidence to prove the connection. On August 11, 2010, the BBC published an interesting article describing an Oxford University study that demonstrates for the first time that high stress levels may delay pregnancy. Their findings suggest that perhaps the best thing a couple can do to prepare for pregnancy is to relax.

Dr. Cecilia Pyper, of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, measured stress hormones in 274 healthy women aged 18-40 planning to have a baby naturally. They found that those who were most stressed had a reduced chance of becoming pregnant that month. Dr. Pyper said: "The findings support the idea that couples should aim to stay as relaxed as they can about trying for a baby....In some people's cases, it might be relevant to look at relaxation techniques, counselling and even approaches like yoga and meditation."

The study, aimed to improve understanding of the factors that influence pregnancy in normal healthy women, was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The research was carried out in collaboration with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in the US. It is part of a larger study looking at the effect of factors like smoking, alcohol, and caffeine on chances of pregnancy.

This being the first of such studies, more research is needed to further link the role of stress and pregnancy. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to relax

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