Stress may negatively impact women's fertility, study finds

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An animal-based study showed that higher stress levels may complicate the fertility process

A new study conducted by researchers from the Endocrine Society explored the effect that stress can have on women’s fertility. The researchers learned that higher exposure to stress made it harder for female mice to get pregnant

“We examined the effect of stress on ovarian reserve using a scream sound model in rats,” said researcher Wenyan Xi, Ph.D. “We found that female rats exposed to the scream sound had diminished ovarian reserve and decreased fertility.” 

How stress affects fertility

For the study, the researchers divided up female mice into three groups for three weeks – one group was exposed to white noise, one group was exposed to background noise, and a third group was exposed to a screaming sound. The team analyzed the effect that the different sounds and the stress had on the number and quality of the mice’s eggs, their ability to get pregnant, and their sex hormones. 

The researchers learned that exposure to the screaming sound, which caused a spike in stress levels, had a negative effect on the mice’s fertility. They had higher cortisol levels, which in turn created lower levels of two important reproductive hormones – Anti-Mullerian hormones and estrogen. The former is responsible for the production of reproductive organs, while the latter aids in reproductive development. 

The team hopes these findings emphasize the fertility risks associated with higher stress levels. 

“Based on these findings, we suggest stress may be associated with diminished ovarian reserve,” said Dr. Xi. “It is important to determine an association between chronic stress and ovarian reserve because doing so may expand our appreciation of the limitations of current clinical interventions and provide valuable insight into the cause of diminished ovarian reserve.” 

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