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Infertility Treatment May Up Postpartum Blues

Mothers Who Get Infertility Treatment Have Greater Risk of Postpartum Depression
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 23, 2005 - Women who have healthy babies as a result of infertility treatments may be unlikely candidates for postpartum depression. But new research suggests they might be uniquely vulnerable.

Gina (not her real name) is a case in point. The birth of her daughter four years ago should have been the happiest time of Gina's life. After years of infertility, two failed in vitro fertilization attempts, and countless other treatments, she and her husband finally had the healthy child they so desperately wanted.

But soon after bringing the baby home, Gina realized something was very wrong. Instead of joy, the Alabama mom felt crushing anxiety that left her almost unable to function.

"I remember calling my friends and just sobbing," she tells WebMD. "I had this beautiful baby and I felt like I couldn't take care of her. I was completely irrational, but it didn't occur to me that it was postpartum depression."

Increased Risk of Emotional Problems

In the latest issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers in Australia report that treatment for infertility appears to be associated with an increased risk for developing emotional problems related to parenting.

Conceiving a child after undergoing infertility treatment was four times more likely to result in emotional issues related to parenting than having a child without such treatments.

Brooke Shields' Battle

Postpartum depression affects as many as one in 10 new mothers, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In her new book, Down Came the Rain, actress Brooke Shields writes about her battle with depression following the birth of her now 2-year-old daughter, Rowan Francis. Shields underwent a well-publicized struggle with infertility, including several failed IVF attempts, before her daughter's birth.

In a March interview with WebMD the Magazine, Shields said she experienced escalating depression with intrusive thoughts of self-harm and even suicide after delivering her baby.

"I really didn't want to live anymore," she said.

With the help of psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, and support from family and friends, Shields got the help she needed. She said she wrote her book to try and help remove the stigma associated with postpartum depression.

Growing Awareness

The Australian study included just over 700 new moms with mild to moderate depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems that led them to seek treatment at a special clinic.

The researchers determined that 6% of the mothers seeking emotional treatment conceived through infertility treatments. This is four times greater than the 1.5% of infants conceived through infertility treatments in the general population.

Mothers who conceived through IVF and other forms of assisted reproduction were more likely than other moms to be older, have multiple births, and have difficult deliveries that ended in cesarean sections -- three other suspected risk factors for postpartum depression.

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