Study: Women Using IUI, IVF With More Stress Have Higher Blood Sugar Levels

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The results also indicated that stress and blood sugar levels were higher among women who had a college degree and women with a higher income.

Women undergoing fertility treatment and who had more stress before pregnancy were found to have higher blood sugar levels during pregnancy, indicating weaker cardiovascular health (CVD), according to results published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.1,2

Doctor use glucosmeter checking blood sugar level from patient hand | Image Credit: interstid - stock.adobe.com

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According to a press release, data have shown that women might experience more stress than men, especially with an added variable such as infertility. Maintaining health before and during pregnancy is key for both the mother and the fetus.1

“We found that maternal stress, evaluated before pregnancy, is negatively associated with cardiovascular health, measured as glucose levels during pregnancy,” Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in the press release. “Our results highlight the importance of considering preconception as a sensitive window of stress in relation to cardiovascular health during pregnancy. A few ways women can lower their stress levels include being more active, avoiding alcohol and drugs, eating healthy, and avoiding isolation.”1

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Women undergoing fertility treatment who experience higher levels of stress before pregnancy may face adverse cardiovascular health outcomes during pregnancy.
  2. Interestingly, Women who conceived through IUI showed higher stress and blood sugar levels compared to IVF recipients.
  3. The study indicated that women with higher socioeconomic status, including those with a college degree and higher income, experienced higher stress and blood sugar levels.

The study authors, from Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston, Massachusetts, analyzed self-reported stress levels from 400 women before they became pregnant. They also measured blood sugar levels in late pregnancy.1 The mean age was 35 years at study entry, and most women were White, never smoked, and were highly educated.2

Approximately 75% of women got pregnant via medically assisted technology and 21% had abnormal gestational glucose levels, according to the study authors.1 Women in the middle and highest tertiles of stress had a 4% and 13% greater probability of abnormal glucose levels compared with those in the lowest tertile of stress.2 The results showed that women who conceived through intrauterine insemination (IUI) had higher stress and blood sugar levels compared to those who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF).1

“This may be explained by the fact that IUI treatment has shown less effectiveness as an infertility treatment compared to IVF, so women undergoing IUI may experience more distress compared to those going through IVF,” Mínguez-Alarcón said in the press release. IUI is when sperm is injected directly into the uterus, while IVF is a multistep process including egg stimulation, retrieval, lab fertilization, and transfer, according to the press release.1

Furthermore, the results showed that stress and blood sugar levels were higher among women who had higher socioeconomic status, including those who had a college degree and those with a higher income. Mínguez-Alarcón stated that a possible reason could be that these women could have more demanding and time-intensive jobs, according to the press release.1,2

“It has previously been shown that those with a higher education level experience greater levels of job stress, with stronger associations found in women than in men,” Mínguez-Alarcón said in the press release. “Given that education level is positively associated with salary, it is possible that this explanation applies to women with higher incomes as well. Professional women are often also responsible for balancing demands in the workplace with household duties and childcare."1

The study authors stated that due to limited literature on preconception stress and glucose levels, additional studies should be conducted to confirm these findings.2

References

  1. Women undergoing fertility treatment who are stressed ay have heart health issues during pregnancy. News release. EurekAlert. January 4, 2024. Accessed January 10, 2024. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1030048
  2. Mínguez-Alarcón L, Chagnon O, Tanaka A, Williams PL, et al. Preconception Stress and Pregnancy Serum Glucose Levels Among Women Attending a Fertility Center. J Endocr Soc. 2024;8(1):bvad152. doi:10.1210/jendso/bvad152
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