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Can Stress Prevent Pregnancy?

British researchers at University of Oxford tell us this may be true.

It took me 5 years to conceive. During this period, I experienced excitement, anxiety and yes – stress – each month as I waited for my ovulation cycle to be completed. Meanwhile, family and friends and that tirelessly ticking biological clock were putting even more pressure on me. Getting pregnant was stressful for me.

What Stress and Starchy Foods Have in Common

The British researchers report that fertility problems may be linked to a certain substance that is indicative of stress. The culprit is called alpha-amylase, an enzyme found in the saliva which helps digest starch. Alpha-amylase is secreted by the parotid gland in response to starchy food – and to physical and psychological stress.

The researchers followed up 274 English women who wanted to get pregnant. They were given home kits to tract their monthly cycles and saliva samples were collected during their window of fertility. The results showed that women with higher levels of alpha-amylase are less likely to conceive than those with low levels of this compound. 25% of the women with the highest amylase levels had a corresponding 12% reduction in their chances to become pregnant.

As each of my attempts to get pregnant failed, the pressure and the stress built up to reduce even more my chances to conceive. Women like me who tried so hard for so long know this vicious cycle.

Methods to Control Your Stress Levels

With this discovery, the researchers hope to help couples with fertility problems overcome this unending cycle of stress and failed attempts at conception. They recommend alleviating the stress of women using natural and safe ways such as yoga and other relaxation techniques and support groups.

It took me 5 years to conceive. I don’t know how and why I eventually succeeded but it happened. Maybe I eventually overcame the stressful cycle. Maybe I simply gave up and stopped trying too hard as I grew older. At any rate, I was blessed with twin boys 7 years ago. Now, that’s another kind of stress I might tell you about someday.


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