We know fertility patients suffer from high rates of anxiety while in treatment, but we know far less about their mental state once they conceive and ultimately deliver.
A team of Spanish researchers measured the rates of anxiety and depression amongst 60 women who conceived through IVF and compared those with a (somewhat) similar group who conceived naturally. Investigators gauged women on both psychological endpoints in the third trimester, two days post-birth and three months post-birth. The team also tested for biomarkers (e.g. cortisol levels) associated with both mental states.
What The Study Showed
During the third trimester, women who conceived through IVF exhibited higher rates of anxiety but far lower rates of depression compared with women who conceived naturally.
Immediately post-delivery and months later, anxiety rates dropped for both groups and the differences in rates of anxiety began to dissapate.
On the otherhand, as for rates of depression, IVF patients recorded lower rates at both intervals to a nearly statistically-signifcant degree.
For the most part, the biomarkers associated with anxiety and depression tracked fairly closely to the psychological measurements.
One plausible interpretation for the findings is that IVF patients are more fearful about their prospects of delivering a healthy child, but thereafter feel less daunted by the future responsibility of caring for that child in the early months.
There were two major limitations to this study. First, the sample size was relatively small (<200 patients in total) and so we're left to wonder if this group is representative of the broader population.
Second, the natural conception "control" group does not look like the IVF "treatment" group. For instance, the natural conception group was far more likely to have delivered a child before (76% vs 56%) and far less likely to be carrying twins (16% vs 61%) during this study. Such factors may well impact the results and make them more or less generalizeable to patients in different circumstances.