Failed attempts to conceive worsen women’s mental health

About a third of married couples undergoing examination and treatment for their infertility, without having any success, abandon their unrealizable desire to have a child, but the rest cannot accept it. New research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, shows that women who can’t bring themselves to accept their inability to have a child have a significantly worse long-term mental health prognosis than women who can accept it.

A group of British scientists led by Dr. For the first time in history, Sofia Gameiro examined a large group of women in order to assess the various risk factors that can affect mental health ten years after the failure of fertility treatment.

It has long been known that people who suffer from infertility are much more likely to suffer from psychiatric illnesses than people who have children, says Dr. Gameiro. However, in her opinion, previous studies did not take into account the influence of individual factors on these overall results.

Therefore, in their study, the authors conducted a detailed analysis of many important factors.

To conduct this study, a team of scientists analyzed the questionnaire responses of over 7000 women who were treated for infertility in hospitals in the Netherlands between 1995-2000.

These questionnaires were sent to women in the period from January 2011 to January 2012, that is, from the beginning of their treatment to the completion of the questionnaire, it took from 11 to 17 years.

The questionnaire included questions about age, marital status, education, menopause status, which spouse is associated with infertility, and what kind of fertility treatment they received. They also completed a mental health questionnaire.

In addition, in the questionnaire, women were asked whether they have children, and if so, their own, or adopted; and whether they still want to get pregnant.

Although the majority of women who had infertility had already come to terms with the inability to get pregnant during this period, the scientists found that 6% of them were still trying to recover at the time of the survey, and this fact was associated with the worst indicators of mental health.

Dr. Gameiro notes that women who still wanted to have children were 2.8 times more likely to have mental health problems than women who accepted their diagnosis.

In addition, she explains:

The strength of this relationship varied depending on whether the women had children before the onset of infertility or not.

Among infertile women without children, the increase in the incidence of mental illness was maximum – 2.8 times. Among infertile women with children, this indicator differed by 1.5 times, compared with childless women who resigned themselves to the diagnosis. This relationship did not depend on the specific diagnosis, the cause of infertility, and medical history.

The results also showed that when infertility is due to male factors, or the cause remains unknown, women tend to have better mental health scores. In addition, women who started fertility treatment in adulthood had better mental health than those who started treatment when they were young.

The team emphasizes that their findings only show that there is a link between unfulfilled desire for children and worse mental health outcomes, not that any unfulfilled desire is at the root of psychiatric problems.

However, the authors emphasize the importance of psychological assistance to patients suffering from infertility.

Recently, we also published an article that infertility is usually regarded as an exclusive problem for women.

local_offerevent_note March 11, 2021

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