Infertility Increases Risk of Serious Psychiatric Illness
Published: July 16, 2012Multiple small studies have demonstrated a link
between infertility and psychological distress, reporting high rates of
anxiety and depressive symptoms among women with infertility. These studies
have evaluated psychiatric symptoms or psychological distress; however,
less is known about the prevalence of more significant psychiatric disorders
in this population.
Data from the largest study to date of women with infertility was recently
presented at the annual meeting of ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction
and Embryology) by Dr. Birgitte Baldur-Felskov.
Danish investigators were able to examine the records of 98,737 Danish
women evaluated for infertility between 1973 and 2008. They found that
women who remained childless after their first investigation for infertility
had more hospitalizations for psychiatric illness than women who had at
least one child following their investigation. The most common discharge
diagnoses were “anxiety, adjustment and obsessive compulsive disorders”
followed by “affective disorders including depression.”
In another study (also from Denmark), investigators examine a cohort of
51,221 women with primary or secondary infertility who had been referred
to hospitals or private fertility clinics in Denmark between 1973 and
1998. Each woman was followed from the date of her initial fertility evaluation
In this study, they discovered that women who did not have a child after
initial fertility evaluation had a greater than twofold risk of suicide
(HR: 2.43; 95% CI: 1.38-3.71) than women who had at least one child after
evaluation. Women with secondary infertility, i.e. women who had a child
before a fertility evaluation but did not succeed in having another child
after evaluation, also had an increased risk for suicide (HR: 1.68; 95%
CI, 0.82-3.41), although this finding was not statistically significant.
These two reports extend our understanding of the impact of infertility
and its treatment on risk for serious psychiatric illness. While future
studies will help to determine which women are the most vulnerable to
illness in this setting, these two large studies highlight the need for
adequate screening for psychiatric illness and appropriate interventions
in women who are evaluated for infertility.
[Mike Berkley writes: Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown
to effective treatment modalitites for anxiety and depression.]
Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD
Kjaer TK, Jensen A, Dalton SO, et al. Suicide in Danish women evaluated
for fertility problems. Hum Reprod. 2011;26(9):2401-7.
Read more: Childless Women With Fertility Problems at Higher Risk of Hospitalization
for Psychiatric Disorders (Science Daily)