The risk of post-partum depression is elevated among women who give birth after receiving fertility treatment compared to women that fail to have a child despite similar fertility efforts.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen believe the finding has important implications for all fertility programs.
The investigative topic is unique as Danish researchers are among the first in the world to study the risk of developing clinical depression for women undergoing fertility treatment.
Their findings were unexpected, yet meaningful, as investigators discovered women who give birth after receiving fertility treatment are five times more likely to develop depression compared to women who don’t give birth.
“The new results are surprising because we had assumed it was actually quite the opposite. However, our study clearly shows that women who become mothers following fertility treatment have an increased risk of developing depression in the first six weeks after birth compared to women who did not have a child,” explains Camilla Sandal Sejbaek, Ph.D., Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen.
“Our study has not looked at why the depression occurs, but other studies indicate that it could be caused by hormonal changes or mental factors, but we cannot say for sure. We did not find any correlation between the number of fertility treatments and the subsequent risk of depression,” says Sejbaek, one of the driving forces behind the study.
The new research is based on data from 41,000 Danish women who have undergone fertility treatment in which an egg is removed from the body and fertilized in a laboratory. The study is based on unique register information from fertility clinics in Denmark.
“Infertility affects one in four to six couples who are trying to conceive, and our research sheds light on a little-known field. By focusing on the link between having a child after undergoing fertility treatment and the risk of depression, our research can give professionals useful tools in the form of advice and how to handle a pregnancy before and after birth,” says Associate Professor Lone Schmidt, M.D., DMSci, Ph.D. from the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen.
In addition, the findings are important in relation to couples who are thinking about starting fertility treatment. “It can be a tough process, and our findings show there is not a greater risk of depression if the treatment is unsuccessful,” remarks Schmidt.
The findings appear in the international journal ACTA Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.