Trouble Getting Pregnant? Blame Stress!

Feeling frenzied all the time can take a toll on your fertility. Here's how you can chillax and boost your odds of baby-making success.

stressed woman pulling her hair

You ditched your birth control pills, tracked your cycles using our ovulation calculator, and did the deed (many, many times). So why aren't you pregnant? Ohio State University researchers may have your answer: You're too stressed.

Researchers followed more than 400 couples as they began the process of baby-making. Using saliva samples, they measured levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that's secreted during times of stress. Women with the highest levels of salivary alpha-amylase were 29 percent less likely to conceive within a year compared to women with the lowest levels. The frenzied ladies were also twice as likely to be infertile. The study was published in Human Reproduction.

"Stress might make it difficult for the egg to move through the fallopian tubes and/or implant in the uterus," says Courtney Lynch, Ph.D., director of reproductive endocrinology at Ohio State, and author of the study.

Related: The Top 5 Foods You Should Be Eating Before You Get Pregnant

Dr. Lynch is currently planning a trial to evaluate how different stress reduction methods affect fertility. For now, try these proven stress saboteurs to boost your odds of a positive preggo test.

Unroll Your Yoga Mat

Just one to two 90-minute yoga sessions per week practiced over the course of one month can decrease your alpha-amylase (the enzyme measured in the study) levels by about 30 percent, according to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga.

Don't Give Up Cardio

Regular cardiovascular exercise may help the brain control its reaction to stress, reports The Journal of Neuroscience. Mice that ran regularly had more activity in neurons that tell other, excited neurons to simmer down. Aim for about five 30-minute exercise sessions per week at a moderate intensity.

Take the Lead on a Work Project

Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking on more responsibility at work could minimize stress. People in leadership positions at the office had cortisol levels that were 27 percent lower than non-leaders, says a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One reason: Leadership can give you a greater sense of control, which acts as a buffer against stress. Of course, only take on the role for a project you feel passionate about—nothing's more stressful than working on an assignment you hate.