Can Stress Reduce Fertility?

Last Editorial Review: 8/25/2017

Ask the experts

My girlfriend and I have been trying to get pregnant for 10 months. She is very stressed by our lack of success. Will the stress affect our chances?

Doctor's response

Psychological stress is known to affect many physiological processes, including hormone levels and the function of the immune system, both of which can play a role in fertility. While there is no proof that stress alone is a cause of infertility, some studies have shown that stress can adversely affect outcome in people undergoing fertility treatments and may be an aggravating factor for infertility.

However, trying to conceive for 10 months without success is not yet considered indicative of a fertility problem. In the absence of known conditions that may affect the reproductive system, infertility is defined as the absence of conception after a period of one year. Many couples who eventually conceive without fertility treatment do so after waiting even longer than a year.

Since your girlfriend is already feeling stressed, it would make sense to develop a stress management plan and to learn skills to help control her stress levels. Exercise, proper nutrition, relaxation techniques, a regular sleep cycle, and psychological counseling, if needed, can all significantly reduce symptoms due to emotional stress and lead to improvements in physical and mental well-being.

If your girlfriend is concerned that an emotional or physical problem may be interfering with your ability to conceive, she should discuss this with her doctor, who can help determine whether you have a fertility problem.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care