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Does Stress Affect Conception? What We Know

People are full of well-meaning, albeit annoying, words of wisdom when you're trying to conceive. But the most frustrating piece of advice may be, "just relax, don't stress about it." People tend to act like relaxation is a surefire way to get pregnant, and that the tiniest bit of stress will ruin your chances. So what's the real story — does stress affect conception? Unfortunately, there are some indications that it might.

According to Baby Center, being stressed can wreak havoc with your hypothalamus, the gland in your brain that controls the hormones that let your ovaries know when it's time to release an egg. If those signals are being crossed thanks to stress, you may ovulate late or not at all. That makes it difficult to figure out when you should be having sex in order to get pregnant. Another chemical produced by the body in times of severe stress, alpha-amylase, has been known to double the risk of infertility, according to The New York Times.

And of course, women aren't the only ones who get stressed. According to Belly Belly, stress can also affect male fertility— one study found that being constantly stressed decreased the quality and quantity of a man's sperm.

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It's important to note, however, that the research may be a bit skewed. According to Parents, many of the studies on stress and conception have involved women already having fertility issues. Although it seems that stress can possibly make conceiving a baby harder, the website for The Today Show noted that other factors that affect fertility are much more likely to be the cause of any problems, including issues with your ovaries or fallopian tubes, your age, and your overall health. The American Psychological Association also noted that while the focus is usually on whether stress leads to infertility, it's important to remember that infertility leads to more stress.

Writing for CNN, Dr. Joshua Klein noted that making time to relax and destress is important regardless of whether it actually boosts your odds of getting pregnant. So as annoying as it is to be told to "just relax" when you're trying for a baby, it's actually good advice.