Preconception Perceived Stress Is Associated with Reproductive Hormone Levels and Longer Time to Pregnancy

Karen C. Schliep, Sunni L. Mumford, Robert M. Silver, Brian Wilcox, Rose G. Radin, Neil J. Perkins, Noya Galai, Jihye Park, Keewan Kim, Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Torie Plowden, Enrique F. Schisterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Women who experience pregnancy loss are especially prone to high stress, though the effects of stress on reproductive outcomes in this vulnerable population are unknown. We assessed relationships between perceived stress and hormones, anovulation, and fecundability among women with prior loss. METHODS: One thousand two hundred fourteen women with 1-2 prior losses were followed for ≤6 cycles while attempting pregnancy and completed end-of-cycle stress assessments. For cycles 1 and 2, women also collected daily urine and completed daily perceived stress assessments. We assessed anovulation via. an algorithm based on human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), pregnanediol-3-glucuronide (PdG), luteinizing hormone (LH), and fertility monitor readings. Pregnancy was determined via. hCG. Adjusted weighted linear mixed models estimated the effect of prospective phase-varying (menses, follicular, periovulatory, and luteal) perceived stress quartiles on estrone-1-glucuronide (E1G), PdG, and LH concentrations. Marginal structural models accounted for time-varying confounding by hormones and lifestyle factors affected by prior stress. Poisson and Cox regression estimated risk ratios and fecundability odds ratios of cycle-varying stress quartiles on anovulation and fecundability. Models were adjusted for age, race, body mass index (BMI), parity, and time-varying caffeine, alcohol, smoking, intercourse, and pelvic pain. RESULTS: Women in the highest versus lowest stress quartile had lower E1G and PdG concentrations, a marginally higher risk of anovulation [1.28; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.00, 1.63], and lower fecundability (0.71; 95% CI = 0.55, 0.90). CONCLUSION: Preconception perceived stress appears to adversely affect sex steroid synthesis and time to pregnancy. Mechanisms likely include the effects of stress on ovulatory function, but additional mechanisms, potentially during implantation, may also exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S76-S84
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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