Stress may directly impact female fertility and ovarian reserve – the number and quality of eggs they produce, according to a small study conducted in mice. Exposing female rats to scream sounds, researchers noted a decrease in estrogen and anti-mullerian hormone levels, which are vital for fertility. Stress also reduced the number and quality of eggs, resulting in smaller litters, they said.
The findings, published in the journal Endocrinology, shed light on the role stress may play in female reproduction. “We examined the effect of stress on ovarian reserve using a scream sound model in rats,” said Wenyan Xi, from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an JiaoTong University in Xian, China. “We found that female rats exposed to the scream sound had diminished ovarian reserve and decreased fertility,” Xi said. Ovarian reserve is the reproductive potential left within a female’s ovaries based on the number and quality of eggs. A female is born with a finite number of eggs and her body cannot create any more, the researchers said.
Diminished ovarian reserve is the loss of normal reproductive potential in the ovaries due to a lower count or quality of the remaining eggs, they said. The researchers used a scream sound model to investigate the effect of stress on ovarian reserve in female rats. They exposed female rats to a scream sound for three weeks and analysed the effect on their sex hormones, the number and quality of their eggs and their ability to get pregnant and have babies after mating.
They found the scream sound decreased the rats’ estrogen and anti-mullerian hormone levels.
Estrogen is a group of hormones that play an important role in growth and reproductive development, and anti-mullerian hormone is made by the ovaries and helps form reproductive organs. The scream sound also lowered the number and quality of the women’s eggs and resulted in smaller litters, according to the researchers. “Based on these findings, we suggest stress may be associated with diminished ovarian reserve,” Xi said. “It is important to determine an association between chronic stress and ovarian reserve because doing so may expand our appreciation of the limitations of current clinical interventions and provide valuable insight into the cause of diminished ovarian reserve,” the scientist added.