Women who remain childless after seeking fertility treatment are significantly more at risk of being hospitalised for mental problems, a study has found.
Researchers looked at data on 98,737 Danish women investigated for infertility between 1973 and 2008.
Childlessness increased the risk of being hospitalised for a mental illness by 18 per cent
Over a period of 12.6 years, more than half the women had a baby. But those who did not were 18% more likely to end up in hospital being treated for a psychiatric disorder.
In total, almost 5,000 of the whole population of women were hospitalised for mental conditions such as alcohol abuse, psychosis, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Childlessness increased the risk of alcohol and substance abuse by 103%, and schizophrenia by 47%.
It also raised the risk of eating disorders by 47%, although this result was not statistically significant.
However, common problems such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder were not affected by fertility status.
The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dr Birgitte Baldur-Felskov, from the Danish Cancer Research Center in Copenhagen, who led the study, said:
'The results suggest that failure to succeed after presenting for fertility investigation may be an important risk modifier for psychiatric disorders.
'This adds an important component to the counselling of women being investigated and treated for infertility.
'Specialists and other healthcare personnel working with infertile patients should also be sensitive to the potential for psychiatric disorders among this patient group.'
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