Could anxiety and depression actually be good for female fertility? For women in developing countries, the answer may be yes. A surprising new study of rural families in Senegal, Africa, found that women classified as "neurotic," or more prone to anxiety, depression, and moodiness, tended to have more children than their laid back counterparts. Published June 7, 2010, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study's authors speculate that women with depressed moods may be more likely to have multiple partners over the course of their lifetime, increasing their chances of having children—or it could be that anxiety in women has the side effect of increasing libido.
Researchers also noted that babies born to anxious, depressed women tended to be smaller at birth and more prone to health problems. Similar findings about the negative effects of stress on pregnancy and prenatal health have been found among women living in the US and other industrialized countries.
Feeling stressed out and depressed when you are trying to conceive may play a small role in infertility, but should not be considered in the same category as other known causes. "Women can and do become pregnant in life situations far more stressful than what many couples consider stressful," says Dr. Estil Young Strawn Jr., director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. "Specifically, in countries where there is open warfare and starvation conditions, women are becoming pregnant."
According to Dr. Strawn, stress, anxiety, and depression lead to fertility problems when negative feelings (in either partner), cause a loss of sex drive and get in the way of a healthy sexual relationship.