Otago University researchers link stress and infertility to brain cells

Otago researchers have found what they believe is the missing link between stress and infertility.

They've pinpointed a group of cells in the brain which appear to shut down the reproductive system during times of stress, meaning it's often harder to get pregnant.

The effect is most evident in women where fertility is focussed around ovulation.

"We've discovered a set of brain cells which are able to respond to stress hormones. And then those neurons then shut down the reproductive system," Professor Greg Anderson from the Otago University Neuroendocrinology Centre said.

"It could be that just a day of stress is enough to block [women getting pregnant] from happening, and then that's the chance gone for the whole month."

Lab testing in stressed animals found suppressing the neurons restored their fertility.

Stress is a common concern for couples trying to conceive, Fertility NZ president Juanita Copeland says.

"Either the stress of infertility and the stress of trying to conceive, the stress of IVF, or just the stress of life in general."

While drugs could be developed to block the effects, lifestyle changes are a quicker way to reduce stress.

Fertility yoga specialist Julie Wilson promotes breathing techniques and postures to improve women's reproductive health

"We're in this stress response a lot of the time, and so our bodies just aren't quite functioning as well as they could be if we could just learn to switch over to that more relaxed state," she said.

A less stressful lifestyle helping the body to conceive a new life.