A UK study suggests that stress can reduce the chances of a woman conceiving during the fertile mid-phase of her monthly cycle.
A total of 274 healthy women , aged between 18 and 40, and who were trying to become pregnant, provided saliva samples which were tested for levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenalin (the latter via an indicator known as alpha-amylase). Tests were conducted for six menstrual cycles or until pregnancy if sooner.
The results showed that those women with high adrenalin levels across the fertile window of their cycle, were less likely to conceive. In fact, the chance of conception for women with the highest levels, was about 12% lower than that for women in the bottom quarter of the adrenalin level range. The authors of the study comment that these findings support the use of relaxation techniques to increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
(Stress Reduces Conception Probabilities across the Fertile Window: Evidence in Support of Relaxation. Fertility & Sterility, June 2011.)
A US study exploring links between sperm quality and stress in men, has found that men who report two or more recent stressful life events are more likely to have reduced sperm quality.
A total of 744 men drawn from prenatal clinics in five US cities, were included in the study. Those reporting two or more stressful life events in the previous three months had an increased risk of being classified below the World Health Organisation’s “normal” thresholds for sperm concentration, motility and morphology, compared with men reporting less than two such events. Concentration and motility were affected more than morphology.
Examples of life events considered relevant were job loss or unemployment (self or partner), serious illness or injury (self or partner), death of a close family member, divorce, separation, and financial problems.
(Semen quality in fertile men in relation to psychosocial stress. Fertility & Sterility, 1 March 2010.)
German researchers have conducted a randomised controlled study of the effect of acupuncture on the sperm of infertile men, and found significant benefits for sperm motility.
Twenty-nine men were randomly assigned to receive either real acupuncture or a placebo control. A significantly higher percentage of motile sperm was found in men after real acupuncture. In this trial, no effect on sperm concentration was observed.
(A Prospective Randomised Placebo-controlled Study of the Effect of Acupuncture in Infertile Patients with Severe Oligoasthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril October 2009.)