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Stress Biomarker Linked to Lower Probability of Conception

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Modern Medicine,  Aug 25, 2010
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Elevation of a stress biomarker, salivary alpha-amylase, is associated with a reduction in a woman's chances of conceiving during the fertile part of her monthly cycle, according to research published online Aug. 5 in Fertility and Sterility.

Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues conducted a study of 274 women aged 18 to 40 who were trying to conceive. The women tracked their fertile periods with home fertility test kits and collected salivary samples for alpha-amylase and cortisol on the sixth day of their cycle for up to six cycles or until they became pregnant.

Alpha-amylase levels were negatively associated with fecundity in the first cycle (fecundity odds ratio, 0.85). The researchers found that the women in the highest quartile of alpha-amylase levels had about a 12 percent reduction in the probability of conception each month, compared to women in the lowest alpha-amylase quartile. Cortisol levels were not associated with any decrease in conception.

"Our data support clinical and public health messages aimed at helping couples relax and minimize stressors when attempting to achieve pregnancy. This message becomes even more important when considering the maternal-fetal unit, given longstanding concern that stressors during pregnancy adversely affect fetal and infant well-being," the authors write.

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