Women's emotional adjustment to IVF: a systematic review of 25 years of research

Hum Reprod Update. Jan-Feb 2007;13(1):27-36. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dml040. Epub 2006 Aug 29.


This review provides an overview of how women adjust emotionally to the various phases of IVF treatment in terms of anxiety, depression or general distress before, during and after different treatment cycles. A systematic scrutiny of the literature yielded 706 articles that paid attention to emotional aspects of IVF treatment of which 27 investigated the women's emotional adjustment with standardized measures in relation to norm or control groups. Most studies involved concurrent comparisons between women in different treatment phases and different types of control groups. The findings indicated that women starting IVF were only slightly different emotionally from the norm groups. Unsuccessful treatment raised the women's levels of negative emotions, which continued after consecutive unsuccessful cycles. In general, most women proved to adjust well to unsuccessful IVF, although a considerable group showed subclinical emotional problems. When IVF resulted in pregnancy, the negative emotions disappeared, indicating that treatment-induced stress is considerably related to threats of failure. The concurrent research reviewed, should now be underpinned by longitudinal studies to provide more information about women's long-term emotional adjustment to unsuccessful IVF and about indicators of risk factors for problematic emotional adjustment after unsuccessful treatment, to foster focused psychological support for women at risk.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / psychology
  • Infertility, Female / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*