Mental health in women 20-23 years after IVF treatment: a Swedish cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2015 Oct 28;5(10):e009426. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009426.


Objective: To assess self-perceived mental health in women treated with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) 20-23 years previously, while comparing them to a reference group, and to determine any differences in mental health between those who had given birth, those who had adopted a child, those who had given birth and adopted a child and those who remained childless.

Design: A cross-sectional study.

Setting: A Center of Reproductive Medicine (RMC) at a Swedish University hospital.

Participants: 520 women who had undergone at least one IVF cycle at the University Hospital in Linköping between 1986 and 1989. 504 of 520 women (97%) were eligible for follow-up. While 34 women declined, 93 per cent (n=470) of the women agreed to participate. The reference group consisted of 150 women of the Swedish population included in a study that was used to validate the Symptom CheckList (SCL)-90.

Interventions: Follow-up was conducted in 2008-2009. The SCL-90 was used to measure the women's self-perceived mental health and a questionnaire specific for this study was used to retain demographic information.

Outcome measures: The SCL-90 assesses 9 primary dimensions; somatisation, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation and psychoticism. There is also a global index of distress.

Results: Women who had previously undergone IVF treatment were at increased risk of symptoms of depression (p=0.017), obsessive-compulsion (p=0.02) and somatisation (p≤0.001) when compared to a reference group. In addition, the women who have remained childless are at increased risk of symptoms of depression (p=0.009) and phobic anxiety (p=0.017).

Conclusions: The majority of the women who have been treated with IVF 20-23 years previously appear to be in good mental health. However, women who remain childless and/or without partner after unsuccessful infertility treatment constitute a vulnerable group even later on in life.

Keywords: IVF; Infertility; MENTAL HEALTH; childlessness; depression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoption
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization
  • Fertilization in Vitro / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / psychology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / etiology
  • Reproductive Behavior / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Somatoform Disorders / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Treatment Outcome