Can stress cause infertility? If you’re struggling to get pregnant, then you may have been told to avoid stress because it could make your infertility worse. We’ve all heard the old wive’s tales of a couple only managing to get pregnant when they stopped worrying about trying to conceive, or when they went on a relaxing holiday. Much of the baby-making process at a cellular level is still mysterious when it’s not directly under the microscope, but could there be any truth to the idea that stress can directly make you less fertile?

Researchers in Otago believe they have discovered the cause of stress-related infertility – and it’s a little patch of neurons near the base of the brain. The RFRP neurons become active when you’re stressed out. When scientists deliberately stimulated them, they discovered that activity in that part of the brain actually suppressed reproductive hormones. 

Professor Gregg Anderson of the Centre for Neuroendocrinology, who has been researching the effect of RFRP neurons on the reproductive ability of mammals for ten years said that “…RFRP neurons are a critical piece of the puzzle in stress-induced suppression of reproduction.”

This information could lead to the development of fertility drugs that suppress activity in this area of the brain – and that these drugs could potentially be side-effect free. While this is only a possibility and would take years to develop and test, it looks as though the old wive’s tales are at least partially true, and that stress can affect your ability to get pregnant.