How Stress Affects Your Chances to Conceive

Jun 16, 2009
The new study shows that stress is a major factor causing infertility and sexual problems for couples, who are trying to conceive.

The study conducted at University of California, Berkeley revealed that stress puts a double strain on fertility, affecting the major sex hormones that play an important role during conception.

Previous studies showed that stress can negatively affect fertility, increasing the level of stress hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a vital hormone in the body, released by the adrenal glands during stress. The high levels of cortisol hormone suppress the production of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), produced by the hypothalamus. In its turn it results in reduced sperm count for men and ovulation problems for women. Besides, the stress hormone also impacts couple's sexual activity, leading to libido loss and other sexual problems.

Scientists discovered that stress also ups the level of the hormone called gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), which inhibits reproductive function by suppressing GnRH hormone. The new study suggests that during stress, the level of GnRH hormone is low, while the level of GnIH hormone is high, which becomes a major obstacle for conception.

The human reproductive system is regulated by various hormones and the balance of these hormones create optimal environment for conception. Chronic stress, including the stress related to infertility treatment often leads to male and female fertility problems and sexual dysfunction.

The findings were published in the Online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).