WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women who continue
to long for a baby years after infertility treatments fail have
worse mental health than women who are able to let go of that
desire, according to a large new European study.
Although the researchers noted that other factors, aside from
failed treatments, could play a role in the women's mental health,
they concluded that all women who undergo treatment for infertility
should also receive psychological support.
"This would enable fertility staff to identify patients more
likely to have difficulties adjusting to the long term, by
assessing the women's possibilities to come to terms with their
unfulfilled child-wish," the study's lead author, Dr. Sofia
Gameiro, a lecturer at the School of Psychology at Cardiff
University in Wales, said in a news release. "These patients could
be advised to seek additional support from mental health
professionals and patient support networks."
The study, published Sept. 9 in the journal
Human Reproduction, involved 7,148 women who underwent
fertility treatment at one of 12 IVF hospitals in The
The researchers examined surveys completed by the women more
than a decade after their fertility treatment. The surveys included
questions about their age, education, marital status, menopause,
type of infertility treatment and whether the infertility troubles
were due to their own health issues or their partner's.
In a separate mental health questionnaire, the women described
how they felt in the past four weeks. The women were also asked if
they had biological or adopted children and whether they still
Although most of the women whose fertility treatments were not
successful accepted the fact, 6 percent still wished they had
children. This prolonged longing for children was linked to worse
mental health regardless of the health issues the women faced or
the type of treatment they received, according to the study.
"We found that women who still wished to have children were up
to 2.8 times more likely to develop clinically significant mental
health problems than women who did not sustain a child-wish," said
Gameiro. "The strength of this association varied according to
whether women had children or not.
Thee results showed that women had better mental health when
their partner was the cause of their infertility or if the cause
was unknown. Women who began infertility treatment later in life
and were married or living with a partner also fared better than
women who started treatment at a younger age and were single,
divorced or widowed. Those with more education also had better
mental health, the study authors said.
"Our study improves our understanding of why childless people
have poorer adjustment. It shows that it is more strongly
associated with their inability to let go of their desire to have
children," Gameiro said. "It is quite striking to see that women
who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer
mental health than those who have no children but have come to
Gameiro said it isn't known why some women may find it more
difficult to let go of their child-wish than others. She speculated
that it might be "easier to let go of a child-wish if women find
other things in life that are fulfilling, like a career," she
The study uncovered an association between failed fertility
treatment and mental health. It did not prove cause-and-effect.
The American Psychological Association information on
psychological challenges associated with