Tell your fertility specialist about your mental health history

Fertility treatment patients and their partners are far more likely than the general population to experience major depressive disorder (MDD), and a key factor in predicting a patient’s risk is whether he or she has a previous diagnosis of MDD. But fertility treatment providers don’t always screen for that past history, according to new research from San Francisco State University.

Screening for previous episodes of MDD would alert a provider to refer those most at risk for major depression during treatment for counseling or support during treatment, the researchers say.

Mental health experts have long known that MDD is a recurring disease that is likely to occur during stressful life events such as fertility treatment. But this study, published in the May issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, is the first to find that patient history is the key indicator of recurrence.

Researchers surveyed 174 women and 144 male partners who had unsuccessfully gone through fertility treatment. They found that 39.1 percent of the women and 15.3 percent of the men met the criteria for MDD during the 18-month course of the study, compared with the U.S. annual prevalence rate for MDD of 8.4 percent of women and 5.2 percent of men.

MDD can cause a couple to stop fertility treatment altogether or, if treatment is successful, MDD could occur during prenatal or post-partum times. So be sure to discuss your mental health history openly and honestly with your fertility care provider.

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