Medically assisted reproduction and mental health: a 24-year longitudinal analysis using Finnish register data
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 228:3, 311–312 (2023)
Background: Medically assisted reproduction can negatively affect women’s mental health, particularly when the treatments do not result in a live birth. Although the number of women relying on medically assisted reproduction to conceive has grown rapidly, our knowledge about the mental health effects before, during, and after treatment is limited.
Objective: This study aimed to understand the long-term association between medically assisted reproduction and mental health outcomes for women before, during, and after their treatments, and according to whether the treatment resulted in a live birth.
Study Design: Using Finnish register data for the period from 1995 to 2018, we estimated the probability of psychotropic purchases (antidepressants, anxiolytics, hypnotics, and sedatives) for 3 groups of women who: (1) gave birth after natural conception, (2) gave birth after medically assisted reproduction treatments, or (3) underwent medically assisted reproduction but remained childless. We followed up women for up to 12 years before and 12 years after the reference date, which corresponded to the conception date for women who had a first live birth either after a natural or a medically assisted conception, or the date of the last medically assisted reproduction treatment for women with no live birth by the end of 2017. We estimated linear probability models before and after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics.
Results: The results show that women who did not have a live birth after undergoing medically assisted reproduction treatments purchased more psychotropics than women who gave birth after conceiving naturally or through medically assisted reproduction, and that these differences did not attenuate over time. Twelve years after the reference date, 17.73% (95% confidence interval, 16.82–18.63) of women who underwent medically assisted reproduction but remained childless purchased psychotropics vs 11.11% of women who gave birth after natural conception (95% confidence interval, 10.98–11.26) and 12.17% (95% confidence interval, 11.65–12.69) of women who gave birth after medically assisted reproduction treatments. In addition, women who conceived naturally and through medically assisted reproduction had very similar psychotropic use patterns from 3 years before conception to 4 years after, and over the long term. Adjustment for women’s sociodemographic characteristics did not change the results.
Conclusion: The similarities in psychotropic purchases of women who had a live birth, whether naturally or through medically assisted reproduction, suggest that the higher psychotropic use among women who remained childless after undergoing medically assisted reproduction were likely driven more by involuntary childlessness than by treatment-related stress. The results highlight the importance of counseling for women undergoing medically assisted reproduction treatments, especially if their attempts to conceive are unsuccessful.