London: Stress can make women infertile, research has revealed. Scientists found that those with high levels of a stress hormone stop ovulating and are therefore unable to conceive. Women with hectic jobs are those most at risk, and are often most in denial about the stress in their lives, say, researchers.
They also found that simple ‘talking therapies’ can reverse the effect of stress and boost a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. The research was presented yesterday at the annual conference of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Prague.
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Professor Sarah Berga, from Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, studied 16 women in their twenties and the thirties who were normal weight but had not had a period for six months. She found they had high levels of the hormone cortisol which is linked to stress.
Eight of the women were given cognitive behavioral therapy and the rest no treatment. The therapy was designed to give women a better sense of perspective and improved self-worth to help cut stress levels. But Professor Berga said it did not involve telling women to ‘pull themselves together’.
‘This population actually looks very well pulled together,’ she said. ‘They don’t report stress. They say everything is just fine. It may be the fact that the people who say everything is fine are the most stressed.
‘They have unrealistic attitudes about themselves and others and think they can get more done in the day than is realistic, and their sense of worth depends on achievement.’ ‘We know that lifestyle factors can influence the menstrual cycle’
Twenty weeks later the researchers found 80 percent of those given therapy had started ovulating again compared with 25 percent in the other group. Two months later two of the women became pregnant. Professor Berga said that although the study involved women whose monthly cycle had stopped, the findings may apply to other women who have fertility problems which are harder to discover because they still menstruate.
‘It is quite possible there are many individuals who could benefit from stress reduction in terms of infertility therapies,’ she said. She now plans a bigger study to see if they can repeat the results in many more women. read more at dailymail