Australian researchers have found that mothers who have children after fertility treatment face a higher risk of suffering from postnatal depression and difficulties with early parenting. Reporting in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the scientists, who are based at the University of Melbourne, suggest that a history of difficulties with conception makes a woman four times more likely to suffer depression after becoming a mother, compared to women who conceive naturally.
Dr Jane Fisher and colleagues looked at the medical records of 745 women who sought treatment for postnatal depression at a specialist clinic, ranging from mild to moderate depression, anxiety or other problems. Of these, 526 records showed the means of conception. The research team found that six per cent of the women in the group had conceived by IVF compared with only 1.5 per cent of women in the general population.
The group also found that women who became mothers using IVF were likely to be older, have multiple births and require delivery by Caesarean section. All these factors have been linked to an increased risk of postnatal depression in previous studies. These findings led the researchers to speculate that 'a previous history of fertility difficulties, advanced maternal age, assisted conception, operative delivery and multiple birth may heighten the risk for postpartum mood disturbance and early parenting difficulties'.
The researchers conclude that women who achieve pregnancy after undergoing fertility treatment might benefit from additional emotional support before and after they have their babies. 'Obstetricians, paediatricians and other clinicians caring for pregnant women and mothers and infants after childbirth should be conscious that a previous history of fertility difficulties and assisted conception may heighten risk for postpartum depression and early parenting difficulties', say the research team. Professor Robert Schenken, fertility specialist and the president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, agreed that there was growing awareness among infertility specialists of the issue.