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Andrologia. 1999 Jan;31(1):27-35.

Treatment-related stresses and depression in couples undergoing assisted reproductive treatment by IVF or ICSI.

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Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany.


The purposes of the study were to compare treatment-related stresses of couples undergoing IVF or ICSI treatment (ejaculated, epididymal or testicular spermatozoa) and to identify sex differences and risk factors for depression. A one-year cohort of couples was retrospectively sent questionnaires on infertility and treatment-related distress and depression (Depression Scale, D-S). Two hundred and eighty-one women and 281 men (61% of those eligible) were included. As determined by analysis of the medical charts, successful couples were more likely to participate. Treatment-related distress was generally higher for women than for men. Treatment by ICSI carried additional burdens for the men: they reported a greater subjective responsibility for the infertility, impact of childlessness on daily life, treatment-related stresses (particularly for MESA/TESE) and time demands. Even when clinical differences between treatments (e.g. age, previous treatments) were controlled statistically, depression scores did not differ. Independent of the treatment, women were significantly more depressed than their age-matched female controls from the general population and their husbands. The men only reported marginally elevated depression scores compared to their controls. Meaningful characteristics were identified that could guide clinicians to give psychological support to those couples at risk for depression, e.g. an unsuccessful treatment outcome, repeated treatment cycles, a low socioeconomic status, foreign nationality, or, for women, a lack of partner support.

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