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In Vitro Fertilization and Depression – IVF Treatment Effects

Research on in vitro fertilization and depression shows the effect of IVF treatments on women who can’t get pregnant. Many fertility doctors and specialists believe that IVF hormone therapy is primarily responsible for feelings of depression in women who are undergoing in vitro fertilization. But, new research from Tel Aviv University shows that while this is true, other factors are even more influential.

According to Dr. Miki Bloch of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sourasky Medical Center, between 20 and 30 percent of women who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures suffer significant symptoms of depression. Stress, pre-existing depression, and anxiety are more likely than hormone therapy to contribute to a woman’s depressed feelings while undergoing IVF treatments.

Since depression and anxiety affects IVF success rates, diagnosis and treatment of depression is very important. To learn more about the effects of infertility treatmetns such as in vitro fertilization, read Infertility Survival Handbook.


And, here’s a summary of the research on depression in women who are trying in vitro fertilization to get pregnant…

In Vitro Fertilization and Depression – IVF Treatment Effects

In the long-term IVF protocol, women receive injections that block ovulation, resulting in a sharp decline in estrogen and progesterone levels. This continues for a two-week period before she is injected with hormones to stimulate ovulation, at which point the eggs are harvested and fertilized before being replanted into the womb. The short-term in vitro fertilization protocol, on the other hand, does not include the initial two-week period of induction of a low hormonal state.

Some gynaecologists believe that depression is more likely when a woman undergoes long-term IVF therapy because of those first two weeks of hormonal repression. But Dr. Bloch’s research has demonstrated that the difference between the two different procedures is negligible. That is, depression and anxiety rates for women who undergo the long in vitro fertilization protocol and those who undergo the short in vitro fertilization  protocol are exactly the same.

Dr Bloch found in vitro fertilization and depression to consistently increase in both long and short term in vitro fertilization treatments.

“Once the patient begins ovulating, her estrogen rises to high levels. Then, after the ovum is replanted in her uterus, there is a precipitous drop in these hormonal levels,” he explains. It’s the severity of the estrogen drop, a feature of both protocols, that was found to affect the patient’s emotional state.

The Stress of In Vitro Fertilization Can Lead to Depression and Anxiety

These researchers discovered that the stress and anxiety experienced during in vitro fertilization treatment has a significant impact on depression rates. When compared to a “normal” population, women undergoing IVF experience very high levels of anxiety and depression, even before the treatment begins. As the in vitro fertilization therapy progresses, women experience increased anxiety about the success of the implantation and getting pregnant.

Women who have a previous history of anxiety or depression disorders before the IVF treatment are even more susceptible to depression during and after in vitro fertilization. This is likely because these women are more emotionally vulnerable to the toll of the in vitro fertilization process and infertility treatments rather then increased reactivity to changing hormonal levels.

Both Long and Short Term Infertility Treatments Can Depress Women

When it comes to depression, it doesn’t matter if it’s a long or short term IVF treatment, Dr. Bloch concluded. The combination of the stress surrounding the infertility treatments, a personal history of mood or depression disorders, and a sharp decline in estrogen levels are the main contributing factors towards depression during in vitro fertilization therapy.

While doctors should look at their patient’s individual needs when deciding on an IVF protocol, this infertility research suggests the type of protocol (short or long term) is not an important factor in depression.


If you can’t get pregnant, you may find Coping With Infertility Depression Over the Holidays helpful.


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Source: Adapted from materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

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2 thoughts on “In Vitro Fertilization and Depression – IVF Treatment Effects”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    In vitro fertilization depression is hard to overcome, I think. I agree, Dan, that just struggling to try to get pregnant is hard enough!