Depression, anxiety, and fertility
Both depression and anxiety are common problems in the modern world. For women suffering from one or both of these conditions, the stress of infertility treatment can make matters even worse. Unfortunately, many women are reluctant to discuss their symptoms with their doctors, because they may perceive a stigma surrounding these illnesses. They may not believe that there’s a link between anxiety or depression and infertility.
A Swedish study, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Fertility & Sterility, might help to change this. The study looked at over 23,000 women who were undergoing IVF for the first time, looking for an association with anxiety and depression. What they found could change the way infertile couples think about mental health.
Are depression and infertility correlated?
So what did these scientists find out about depression and infertility? They found that women who had a diagnosis of depression or anxiety in the six months before they started IVF had significantly lower rates of both pregnancy and live birth than those who didn’t have such a diagnosis.
This is important, but there was even more important information uncovered by this study. Women who took a certain type of antidepressants within the six months prior to the study had higher rates of pregnancy and live birth than did those who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety but didn’t take medication. In fact, this group of women had pregnancy and live birth rates that were statistically indistinguishable from those of women who didn’t have anxiety or depression.
Does the type of antidepressant matter?
There was a difference in the study between women taking different types of antidepressants. The type of antidepressants that appeared to be most beneficial for fertility were the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most popular class of antidepressants, which includes Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. Taking these medications also didn’t increase the risk for miscarriage among those women who did get pregnant. Importantly, women taking other types of antidepressants did have lower rates of pregnancy and live birth, as well as higher rates of miscarriage. This suggests that SSRIs should be the first line of treatment for every woman with depression or anxiety who wishes to get pregnant.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it!
This is a major finding with important implications. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, and you’re being treated for infertility, you need to get treatment! It can be hard to speak up about the struggles you’re experiencing. So many of us think that we can just “be strong” and “get over it” on our own. But these are real illnesses that can have consequences for many parts of your health, including your fertility. Treatment for depression might be the key that allows you to realize your dream of parenthood.