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Psychological Toll of Infertility Often Ignored

Only one-quarter of men and woman said their fertility clinic offered info on mental health services

THURSDAY, Aug. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Patients undergoing fertility treatment often suffer symptoms of depression or anxiety, but few get any formal help, according to research published in the July issue of Fertility and Sterility.

The study included 352 women and 274 men seen at one of five San Francisco-area fertility clinics. The participants were interviewed before starting treatment, and again four, 10 and 18 months later.

The research team found that most of the patients suffered from clinical-level depression or anxiety at some point during the study. More than half of women (56.5 percent) and one-third of men (32.1 percent) had clinical-level depression symptoms at some point. Even more — 75.9 percent of women and 60.6 percent of men — had symptoms of clinical anxiety. Odds were higher for those who failed to conceive. But only 26.7 percent of women and 24.1 percent of men said their fertility center had offered them information on mental health services. Ultimately, 21.0 percent of women and 11.3 percent of men did receive some type of mental health therapy.

To lead researcher Lauri Pasch, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, the solution is for clinics to have a mental health professional on site — so that patients know it’s available and a “normal” part of addressing infertility. “I think we need a change in the culture at fertility clinics — where the focus is on getting pregnant, and treatment success rates,” Pasch told HealthDay. “We also need to address the question, ‘How do we help patients through this?'”

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