How do infertility and infertility treatment affect mental health?

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Martie Gillen, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
This post recognizes National Infertility Awareness Week (April 20-26). Learn more here.

Infertility is a frustrating and stressful experience. The emotional rollercoaster ride of high hopes and dashed expectations and the many rounds of tests and procedures some couples go through are hard on men and women alike. Past studies have shown mildly increased rates of anxiety and depression among couples dealing with this issue.

Less is known, however, about the long-term psychological effects on those who face infertility and attempt procedures such as in vitro fertilization, also known as IVF. A study in the journal Human Reproduction looked at women’s depression and anxiety before, during, and after IVF attempts. Depression and anxiety did increase while the women were undergoing IVF, often staying elevated for 6 months or more after stopping treatment. However, symptoms had generally returned to baseline levels a few years later.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, women’s depressive symptoms improved the most when IVF treatments resulted in a live birth. Importantly, though, most women whose IVF attempts had failed also seemed to be doing well at follow-up. This was especially true if they’d stopped treatment, choosing instead to pursue adoption or develop new life goals. Women who were still seeking pregnancy at the time of follow-up were more likely to be depressed.

These researchers conclude that couples facing infertility can benefit from additional support, particularly during the stress of treatment. It may also help for couples and those who love them to know that grief is natural when treatment fails, and that time’s passage can help ease the pain as they work through the grieving process and move forward.

(Photo credit: Alone by Lee Haywood. CC BY 2.0.)

Further Reading

  • Resolve–A nonprofit whose mission is to help raise awareness about infertility and improve the lives of men and women with infertility.
  • Infertility Etiquette–Thoughts on how to support someone who is living with infertility.
  • IVF Connections–Information and discussion forums for those considering or going through IVF.



Verhaak, C. M., Smeenk, J. M. J., Nahuis, M. J., Kremer, J. A. M., & Braat, D. D. M. (2006). Long-term psychological adjustment to IVF/ICSI treatment in women. Human Reproduction, 22(1), 305-308.



Posted: April 23, 2014

Category: Relationships & Family, Work & Life
Tags: Health And Wellness, Mental Health, Parenting

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories