Among couples in treatment for infertility, major depression in the male partner is related to a 60 percent reduced chance of pregnancy and live birth, according to a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Depression in the female partner did not appear to lower pregnancy odds or influence the rate of live birth.
Among females being treated for infertility, however, those taking a class of antidepressants known as non-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (non-SSRIs) had a higher risk of early pregnancy loss. Regular SSRIs were not shown to be linked to pregnancy loss.
“Our study provides infertility patients and their physicians with new information to consider when making treatment decisions,” said study author Esther Eisenberg, M.D., of the Fertility and Infertility Branch at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study.
Pointing to previous studies, the researchers noted that 41 percent of women seeking fertility treatments have symptoms of depression. In addition, a study of men seeking in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments revealed that nearly 50 percent were experiencing depression.
In the new study, the researchers wanted to investigate the potential influence of depression in couples seeking non-IVF treatments. The study did not include couples who underwent IVF because the authors thought that this procedure could potentially overcome some possible effects of depression, such as reduced sexual desire and lower sperm quality.
For the new research, the authors pulled information from two previous studies funded by NICHD’s Reproductive Medicine Network. This included data for 1,650 women and 1,608 men.
One study compared the effectiveness of two ovulation-inducing drugs for establishment of pregnancy and live birth in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The other study compared the success rates of three ovulation-inducing drugs for achieving pregnancy and live birth in partners with unexplained infertility.
In each study, both partners had completed a questionnaire designed to screen for depression. Only the women were asked whether they were taking any antidepressants.
Among the women, 5.96 percent were rated as having active major depression, compared to 2.28 percent of the men.
The findings show that women who were taking non-SSRI medications were around 3.5 times as likely to have a first trimester pregnancy loss, compared to those not using antidepressants. Couples in which the male partner had major depression were 60 percent less likely to conceive and have a live birth than those in which the male partner did not have major depression.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
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