Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function: a prospective cohort study
Background Stress has been shown to suppress ovulation in experimental models, but its effect on human reproduction at the population level is unclear. Methods Healthy women (n=259), aged 18–44 years from Western New York, were followed for two menstrual cycles (2005–2007). Women completed daily perceived stress assessments, a 4-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-4) up to four times each cycle, and a 14-item PSS at baseline. Mixed model analyses were used to assess effects of stress on log reproductive hormone concentrations and sporadic anovulation. Results High versus low daily stress was associated with lower estradiol (-9.5%; 95% confidence interval (CI)= -15.6% to -3.0%), free estradiol (-10.4% [-16.5% to -3.9%]), and LH (-14.8% = [-21.3% to -7.7%]), and higher FSH (6.2% [2.0% to 10.5%]) after adjusting for age, race, percent body fat, depression score, and time-varying hormones and vigorous exercise. High versus low daily stress was also associated with lower luteal progesterone (-10.4% [-19.7% to -0.10%]) and higher odds of anovulation (adjusted OR = 2.2 [95% CI=1.0 to 4.7]). For each unit increase in daily stress level, women had a 70% higher odds of an anovulatory episode (OR=1.7 [1.1 to 2.4]). Similar but attenuated results were found for the association between the PSS-4 and reproductive hormones, while null findings were found for the baseline PSS. Conclusion Daily perceived stress does appear to interfere with menstrual cycle function among women with no known reproductive disorders, warranting further research to explore potential population-level impacts and causal biologic mechanisms.
Schliep, K.C., Mumford, S.L., Vladutiu, C.J., Ahrens, K.A., Perkins, N.J., Prasad, A., Wactawski-Wende, J., & Schisterman, E.F. (2015). Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function among premenopausal women in the BioCycleStudy. Epidemiology, 26(2),177-184.