How Work Stress Affects Female Fertility

The stress of pursuing a career affects a woman’s hormones, which in turn affects her fertility levels. Here are the specific ways work stress affects female fertility, from research from the University of Utah. It explains why career women may find it more difficult to get pregnant.

First, a quip from Helen Gurley Brown about women at work:

“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlep,” Brown said.

Could fertility struggles be the trade-off for being a successful at work?

How Work Stress Affects Female Fertility

Women’s figures and fertility levels. Medical research shows that a curvy hourglass figure – a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 or lower – is connected to higher fertility levels in women, and lower rates of chronic disease. Women with cylindrical figures (and more fat around the waist) may be less likely to get pregnant. Women with cylindrical figures are strong, competitive, and have high stamina…and more testosterone.

How career stress affects how fat is distributed on your body. Stress changes how fat is distributed in a woman’s body. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress – it helps people cope with stressful situations (think fight or flight). Cortisol also “moves” fat from a woman’s hips to her waist and creates a more cylindrical figure. So, the more career stress women face, the more their bodies change because of hormones, and the more infertility becomes a possibility.

How figures affect fertility levels. “Although the hormonal profile associated with a high waist-to-hip ratio may favour success in some stressful and difficult circumstances where women must work hard, there are well-known costs,” says researcher Elizabeth Cashdan, of the University of Utah. “Women may suffer lower fertility and possibly lower attractiveness to men who may have an innate preference for curviness.”

Since men seem to prefer women with high waist-to-hip ratios or curvy hourglass figures, not only are women with cylindrical figures possibly dealing with lower fertility levels on a biological level…they may be less likely to be “chosen” in the first place on a social level!

If you’re hoping to get pregnant but think work stress may decrease your fertility levels, you may be thinking about supplements. First, read Before You Take Fertility Supplements to Get Pregnant.

What do you think about work stress and female – are you a successful career woman struggling with infertility? Or do you have a low-stress lifestyle and struggle with infertility? Please comment below; I’d love to hear from you!

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This research on career or job stress and infertility levels in women was conducted by Elizabeth Cashdan, an anthropologist at the University of Utah.

If you’re having trouble conceiving because of work stress, read Dealing With Depression When You Can’t Get Pregnant.

This research on work stress, hormones, and female fertility was published in the December 2008 issue of Current Anthropology. Utah News Press Release: Study Explains How Hormones Interact With Waist-to-Hip Ratios in Women.


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