Depression Risk and Fertility Treatment


Unsuccessful fertility treatment takes a toll on both partners, and knowing their mental health history can help predict depression risk.

Both men and women are at increased risk for major depression during fertility treatment, California researchers found. A previous diagnosis of major depression is a key risk factor in predicting who may be most at risk.

Key Findings:

- Men and women are at increased risk for major depression during fertility treatments.

- The biggest predictor of a major depressive disorder during fertility treatment is a history of depression.

Investigators at San Francisco State University looked at 174 women and 144 of their male partners who did not have a successful child-related outcome during the 18 months of the study. They found 39.1% of the women and 15.3% of the men met the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD). That is significantly higher than the US annual prevalence rate for MDD, which is 8.4% for women and 5.2% for men.

The researchers suggest that their findings could help inform clinicians on how to best screen couples for depression during fertility treatments.

"The things that are typically assessed, such as whether you are feeling down or anxious when treatment begins, can be really useful information, but our research shows that a past history of MDD is actually a stronger indicator of whether a fertility patient will develop MDD during treatment," said Sarah Holley, PhD, the lead author of the study, in a news release. "This suggests it would be useful to include an assessment of a history of MDD as part of a pre-treatment screener."

A pre-screening could help ensure that proper counseling and support are in place for both men and women during the fertility treatment process, she said.

Past depression came up as a major predictor even when researchers controlled for other well-known risk factors, such as baseline levels of depression, anxiety, and partner support.

The study abstract is available here.

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