20 October 2016
Levels of a certain stress-related hormone that can be measured in hair can have a significant impact on the likelihood of successful in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment in women.
Carried out by the University of Nottingham, the research found that elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, as measured in hair, can be associated with the chance of conceiving dropping by as much as one-third.
A total of 135 women were recruited for this study, which found that short-term salivary cortisol measurements were not related to pregnancy, but that hair cortisol concentrations were. 27 per cent of the variance in pregnancy outcomes was accounted for by hair cortisol levels.
This is the first solid evidence to suggest that long-term levels of cortisol - which are affected by lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, caffeine and stress - affect reproductive outcomes. This technique enables doctors to measure hormonal function more accurately than other techniques using saliva, blood and urine.
Further research is needed to fully understand the reason for this connection, but these findings indicate that reducing cortisol in the months prior to treatment may play an important part in aiding the chances of conception.
Dr Adam Massey from the university's school of medicine said: "The good news for patients is that well-known lifestyle changes may help to lower cortisol and therefore optimise the likelihood they will get pregnant."
Posted by Philip Briggs
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