Pregnant belly

Cholesterol levels in both men and women may have an effect on the time it takes for couples to become pregnant, suggests a new study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The results highlight how important it is to maintain optimal cholesterol levels in men and women who plan to conceive.

“In addition to raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, our findings suggest cholesterol may contribute to infertility,” said study author Enrique F. Schisterman, MS, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, in a prepared statement. “Our results suggest prospective parents may want to have their cholesterol checked to ensure their levels are in an acceptable range.”

In the study, researchers analyzed the rate of pregnancies in 501 couples who lived in Michigan and Texas between 2005 and 2009 and were actively trying to conceive. The couples were taking part in the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment study, which is investigating how lifestyle and environmental chemicals affect fertility. During the 12-month study period, 347 couples conceived children, while 54 couples were unsuccessful and 100 withdrew from the study.

The researchers measured five lipid components, including cholesterol, free cholesterol, phospholipids, triglycerides, and total lipids. In analyzing female participants’ lipids individually, after adjustment for covariates the investigators found only free cholesterol and total lipids significantly associated with lower fecundability odds ratio (FOR). When they jointly modeled both partners’ lipid levels, four of five components in women were associated with FORs <1, indicating a longer time to pregnancy.

“Couples in which both the prospective mother and father had high cholesterol levels took the longest time to conceive a child,” Schisterman said in the statement. “Our study also found couples in which the woman had high cholesterol and the man did not took longer to become pregnant than couples where both partners had cholesterol levels in the normal range.”

Read the study, which was published online ahead of print.