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Mental health in women 20–23 years after IVF treatment: a Swedish cross-sectional study
  1. J Vikström1,2,
  2. A Josefsson1,
  3. M Bladh1,2,
  4. G Sydsjö1,2
  1. 1Faculty of Health Sciences, Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Linköping, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to J Vikström; Josefin.vikstrom{at}


Objective To assess self-perceived mental health in women treated with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) 20–23 years previously, while comparing them to a reference group, and to determine any differences in mental health between those who had given birth, those who had adopted a child, those who had given birth and adopted a child and those who remained childless.

Design A cross-sectional study.

Setting A Center of Reproductive Medicine (RMC) at a Swedish University hospital.

Participants 520 women who had undergone at least one IVF cycle at the University Hospital in Linköping between 1986 and 1989. 504 of 520 women (97%) were eligible for follow-up. While 34 women declined, 93 per cent (n=470) of the women agreed to participate. The reference group consisted of 150 women of the Swedish population included in a study that was used to validate the Symptom CheckList (SCL)-90.

Interventions Follow-up was conducted in 2008–2009. The SCL-90 was used to measure the women's self-perceived mental health and a questionnaire specific for this study was used to retain demographic information.

Outcome measures The SCL-90 assesses 9 primary dimensions; somatisation, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation and psychoticism. There is also a global index of distress.

Results Women who had previously undergone IVF treatment were at increased risk of symptoms of depression (p=0.017), obsessive-compulsion (p=0.02) and somatisation (p≤0.001) when compared to a reference group. In addition, the women who have remained childless are at increased risk of symptoms of depression (p=0.009) and phobic anxiety (p=0.017).

Conclusions The majority of the women who have been treated with IVF 20–23 years previously appear to be in good mental health. However, women who remain childless and/or without partner after unsuccessful infertility treatment constitute a vulnerable group even later on in life.

  • Infertility
  • childlessness
  • IVF
  • depression

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