Stress, infertility linked in study by Magee-Womens Research Institute

Results presented at Endo 2001, the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society

DENVER, June 21 Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol are clearly elevated in the bloodstream of child-bearing-aged women who have stopped menstruating, a senior researcher at the Magee-Womens Research Institute has found. The study is significant because it also shows that a psychological intervention and stress-reduction therapy can have a positive impact on infertility associated with the cessation of menstruation.

Called functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA), the condition affects some 5 percent of women in their reproductive years. It is characterized by wildly irregular or absent periods often for as long as two years or more.

"FHA isnt caused by any real defects in the reproductive system, said Sarah Berga, M.D., a professor in the departments of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "We thought using stress-reduction techniques might reverse the process, and our results show we were right.

Dr. Berga presented the study findings at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society, an organization made up of endocrine specialists in internal medicine, pediatrics and gynecology.

Now in its seventh year, the ongoing study has included both human volunteers and primates to link stress and infertility due to FHA. "We are finding out how stress causes infertility, said Dr. Berga, who is also director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Magee-Womens Hospital of the UPMC Health System.

"This is something Ive been working on for 15 years, she said. "Typically, these women are not aware theyre under stress, or dont acknowledge it.

Women with FHA also share certain characteristics, such as a tendency toward perfectionism and poor nutritional or lifestyle choices. Many just try to get too much done in a day.

Fourteen w

Contact: Michele D. Baum
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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