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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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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.

The researchers suggest that women who achieve successful pregnancies after undergoing infertility treatment may benefit from additional emotional support before and after their babies are born.

"Obstetricians, pediatricians 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 mood disturbance and early parenting difficulties," write researcher Jane Fisher, PhD, and colleagues of the University of Melbourne.

American Society of Reproductive Medicine President Robert Schenken, MD, says there is a growing awareness among infertility specialists of a link between assisted reproduction and postpartum depression.

"I think specialists are aware of it, but there is a need to disseminate this information to the general obstetrician/gynecologists who actually deliver these women," he tells WebMD.

Schenken is professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Taking Action Early

Shields said she wants more children and anticipates having IVF again to make that happen. But this time she said she will be ready if depression strikes again. She knows a history of postpartum depression is a red flag for problems with future births.

"I may not feel (any depression) after this second baby, or I may plummet even further, but I am prepared," she told WebMD.

Gina and her ob-gyn also recognized the signs of depression well before the birth of her second child, a healthy boy born six weeks ago.

She began taking an antidepressant before his birth and continues to take it.

"The first time around it took me at least three months to figure out what was wrong and get on treatment," she says. "I was really fighting it. With this pregnancy I had a doctor who knew what was going on and took it very seriously."

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