Women may be less likely to get pregnant if they try to conceive within two years of suffering a concussion, study claims
- Researchers from the University of Rochester studied 245 women in New York
- The 102 women who had a concussion were 76 per cent les likely to get pregnant
- Concussions can affect menstruation and also cause sexual dysfunction
Women may be less likely to get pregnant if they have had a concussion within the last two years, a study has claimed.
Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York analysed pregnancy rates among a group of 245 women who suffered an array of injuries.
Their two-year study showed rates were 76 per cent lower among women who had suffered a concussion, compared to other injuries such as sprained wrists or ankles.
Rates were even lower in women who reported sexual dysfunction — the inability to suffer pleasure during intercourse — six to 10 weeks after their concussion.
Concussions — which are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head — can trigger sexual dysfunction in rare cases.
Women are less likely to get pregnant if they have had a concussion within the last two years, a study has claimed
Signs of a concussion usually appear within a few minutes or hours of a head injury.
But occasionally they may not be obvious for a few days, so it’s important to look out for any problems in the days following a head injury.
• a headache that does not go away or is not relieved with painkillers
• feeling or being sick
• memory loss – you may not remember what happened before or after the injury
• clumsiness or trouble with balance
• unusual behaviour – you may become irritated easily or have sudden mood swings
• feeling stunned, dazed or confused
• changes in your vision – such as blurred vision, double vision or ‘seeing stars’
• being knocked out or struggling to stay awake
Scientists believe they can also affect menstruation, by stopping periods completely, making cycles irregular or causing them to be much longer or heavier.
Scientists studied 102 women who suffered concussions and 143 women who had other injuries requiring emergency medical attention.
All the concussed patients suffered their injuries in car crashes.
The other injuries were serious enough to warrant an X-ray but didn’t involve broken bones, so the psychological trauma of the event was similar in both groups.
The team accounted for differences in ethnicity, education, use of birth control and pregnancy history.
But academics did not take into consideration whether the women even intended to become pregnant in the first place.
It means it is possible, by chance, the concussed women simply did not want to be pregnant and the differences between the two groups has nothing to do with the injuries.
Dr Martina Anto-Ocrah, an epidemiologist and co-author of the research, told New Scientist: ‘I was not surprised by the results.
‘We know that concussions affect menstruation and can cause sexual dysfunction in some women — it only makes sense that this would affect pregnancy rates also.’
She argued the psychological element of being concussed could be another reason behind the drop off in pregnancies.
Concussions can cause depression, which can mean women feel less comfortable being intimate with others.
They can also affect women’s hormonal regulation, resulting in lower fertility in some cases.
Dr Anto-Ocrah added: ‘What happens is hormonal regulation gets a little bit wonky. Your progesterone and oestrogen levels get dysregulated, for example.’
George Attilakos, consultant in fetal medicine and obstetrics at University College London Hospitals, said the study showed concussions are a ‘rare but important to be aware of’ cause of lower fertility levels in women.
He told MailOnline: ‘The concussed women were 102, so a relatively small sample. The rest had injury to extremities and not the head and they were used for comparison.
‘There is certainly a significant difference in pregnancy rates. The study team have adjusted for many variables but there is always a possibility that a head injury is a major life event and pregnancy plans may change for a couple.
‘But they also adjusted for use of birth control to account for that. In relation to the common causes of subfertility, this is rare but important to be aware of.’
Concussions have been linked with several other medical issues later down the line, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Heading in football in particular has been linked to concussions, with sportspeople developing the memory loss conditions in old age.
Five of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team were diagnosed with the degenerative brain condition: Sir Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters, Ray Wilson and Jack Charlton. The latter four all died with the condition.
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