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Stress links with lower pregnancy rate: U.S. and British researchers

08-13-2010 09:38 BJT

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. and British researchers have found that women who feel stressed may have a more difficult time to become pregnant.

For this study, researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the University of Oxford charted the ovulation cycles of 274 English women, ages 18 to 40, who were trying to conceive.

The results showed that women were less likely to conceive when they showed elevated levels of a stress-related substance called alpha-amylase.

Alpha-amylase is secreted into saliva in order to digest starch. The researchers used the substance as an indicator of the body's response to physical or psychological stress because it's also released when the nervous system produces catecholamines, compounds that initiate a type of stress response.

"Overall, 25 percent of the women in the study who had the highest alpha-amylase levels had roughly an estimated 12-percent reduction in getting pregnant each cycle in comparison to women with the lowest concentrations," said study first author Germaine Buck Louis, director of the division of epidemiology, statistics, and prevention research at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The researchers said their study is the first to show an association between a biomarker of stress and a reduced chance of becoming pregnant.

"It has been suggested that stress may increase with the disappointment of several failed attempts at getting pregnant, setting off a cycle in which pregnancy becomes even more difficult to achieve," Buck Louis said.

The findings suggest that doctors need to identify appropriate ways to help women reduce stress when they are trying to get pregnant.

"The question is, 'What do you do to help women to relax?'" Buck Louis said. "People often turn to alcohol or tobacco to relieve stress, but these substances also reduce the likelihood of pregnancy."

Techniques worthy of investigation, she said, include meditation, biofeedback, yoga, and boosting social support.

The study was published online on Thursday in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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