Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function

Karen C. Schliep, Sunni L. Mumford, Catherine J. Vladutiu, Katherine A. Ahrens, Neil J. Perkins, Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Kerri A. Kissell, Ankita Prasad, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Enrique F. Schisterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


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 2 menstrual cycles (2005-2007). Women completed daily perceived stress assessments, a 4-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-4) up to 4 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 luteinizing hormone (?14.8% [?21.3% to ?7.7%]) and higher follicle-stimulating hormone (6.2% [95% CI = 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% [95% CI = ?19.7% to ?0.10%]) and higher odds of anovulation (adjusted odds ratio = 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 (odds ratio = 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-184
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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