High Stress Might Be the Reason You Can’t Get Pregnant

A new study finds that stress may be associated with fertility issues in women.

Scream sound exposure linked to lower egg count in an experiment on female rats.

Approximately 1 in 8 couples or about 6.7 million Americans have trouble due to infertility. There are many possible causes of infertility. However, a new study suggests that stress could be one factor contributing to your infertility.

Other Factors That Can Affect Fertility in Women

  • Age
  • Poor Diet
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol use
  • Athletic training
  • Being overweight
  • Being underweight
  • Health problems that cause hormonal changes

According to a small animal study published recently in the Endocrine Society’s journal, Endocrinology, female rats exposed to a screaming sound may have decreased ovarian reserve and fertility.

The reproductive potential remaining inside a woman’s two ovaries based on the amount and quality of eggs is referred to as ovarian reserve. A woman is born with a limited quantity of eggs, and her body is incapable of producing more. The loss of normal reproductive potential in the ovaries as a result of a reduced count or quality of the remaining eggs is referred to as diminished ovarian reserve.

“We examined the effect of stress on ovarian reserve using a scream sound model in rats,” said Wenyan Xi, Ph.D., of the Second Affiliation Hospital of Xi’an Jiao Tong University in Xian, China. “We found that female rats exposed to the screaming sound had diminished ovarian reserve and decreased fertility.”

The researchers used a scream sound model to investigate the effect of stress on ovarian reserve in female rats. They exposed female rats to a screaming sound for 3 weeks and analyzed the effect on their sex hormones, the number and quality of their eggs, and their ability to get pregnant and have babies after mating.

They discovered that the screaming sound reduced estrogen and anti-Mullerian hormone levels in rats. Estrogen is a hormone group that plays a vital role in growth and reproductive development, while Anti-Mullerian hormone is a hormone produced by the ovaries that assist in the formation of reproductive organs. The screaming noise also reduced the amount and quality of the women’s eggs, leading to a smaller litter.

“Based on these findings, we suggest stress may be associated with diminished ovarian reserve,” Xi said. “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.”

Reference: “Scream Sound-induced Chronic Psychological Stress Results in Diminished Ovarian Reserve in Adult Female Rat” by Wenyan Xi, Hui Mao, Zhiwei Cui, Haoyan Yao, Ruiting Shi and Yane Gao, 10 May 2022, Endocrinology.
DOI: 10.1210/endocr/bqac042

Other authors of this study include Hui Mao, Haoyan Yao, Ruiting Shi of the Second Affiliation Hospital of Xi’an Jiao Tong University, and Zhiwei Cui of the First Affiliation Hospital of Xi’an Jiao Tong University in Xian, China.

The study received funding from the Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Provincial Department of Education.

EggsEndocrine SocietyEndocrinologyEstrogenOvariesPregnancyStress