Women who are anxious before in vitro fertilization (IVF) are no less likely to conceive, according to new research.
However, if the treatment is unsuccessful, it may adversely affect a woman’s mental health.
Two separate studies are published in the journal Fertility and Sterility — one focused on women going through IVF and the other followed women trying to conceive naturally.
“Our findings are consistent with the most recent research,” said Lauri A. Pasch, lead researcher and a clinical psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco Center for Reproductive Health.
“I think we can safely say to women — Stop worrying about being worried,” said Pasch.
A woman should not put pressure on herself to be a “good IVF patient” who’s completely stress-free, Pasch added. And she should not blame herself if she is anxious and the IVF attempt fails.
The second study, from the UK, followed 339 women who were trying to become pregnant naturally.
Overall, 61 percent of these women became pregnant over a period of about six months. And success was not linked to a woman’s mental health once the researchers accounted for factors like age and smoking habits, reported a team led by Courtney Lynch of the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
However, women who experience an unsuccessful IVF may see a drop in their mental health, Pasch and her colleagues found.
The study followed 202 women undergoing IVF at five San Francisco practices. Before the procedure, all the women were interviewed with standard questionnaires on depression and anxiety.
Overall, the researchers found that women whose IVF treatment failed were at greater risk of anxiety or depression in the coming months.
Of 103 women with a failed IVF, 60 percent had symptoms of a clinical anxiety disorder – up slightly from 57 percent before their IVF cycles. And 44 percent had clinical depression, which was up from 26 percent before the procedure.
It’s not surprising that many women with a failed IVF attempt would have such symptoms, according to Pasch. But there has actually been little research into how IVF outcomes may affect women’s mental health, she said.
And although women with a failed IVF attempt were at higher risk, even women who became pregnant had considerable rates of depression and anxiety as well, researchers found.
During pregnancy, 30 percent of those women had depression in the “clinical range,” while half had clinical-level anxiety. Those rates were similar to what they were before IVF.
According to Pasch, infertility practices should do more to help women with mental health symptoms – but not as a way to improve their odds of IVF success.
“Psychological interventions need to be geared toward helping women feel better, and not toward increasing their chances of pregnancy,” Pasch said.
Although a few larger university-linked infertility centers have on-site services for women who need mental health counseling, most practices do not, said Pasch.
Women can, however, ask their center for a referral to counseling if they need it. Pasch said women can also seek help from local support groups.