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Old Maxim of Fertility and Stress is Reversed

New York Times,  Aug 16, 2010
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Even as more and more fertility clinics adopt stress-management programs like yoga, cognitive therapy and biofeedback, the role of stress in infertility remains a matter of debate. Some experts still recite an old maxim: while infertility undoubtedly causes stress, stress does not cause infertility.

Now researchers suggest that the two conditions may indeed be linked.

In a study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the scientists reported that women who stopped using contraceptives took longer to become pregnant if they had high saliva levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase — a biological indicator of stress.

The authors say this is the first study to link a biomarker for stress with delayed conception in normal, healthy women, and they suggest that finding ways to reduce or manage stress may be a low-tech solution for some infertile couples.

“Even when couples just start trying to conceive, people are really stressed out,” said the study’s lead author, Germaine Buck Louis of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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