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Psychological aspects of in vitro fertilization: a review

  • Psychology


This paper reviews psychological research within the context of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The focus will be on psychological reactions before entering an IVF-procedure, during an IVF-treatment, and after both unsuccessful and successful IVF. The effects of psychosocial factors on the treatment outcome after IVF and interventions on conception rates will also be discussed. Undergoing an IVF-treatment is an emotional and physical burden, for both the woman and her partner. Research results suggest that couples entering an IVF-treatment program are, in general, psychologically well adjusted. Concerning reactions during the treatment, both women and men experience waiting for the outcome of the IVF-treatment and an unsuccessful IVF, as most stressful. Common reactions during IVF are anxiety and depression, while after an unsuccessful IVF, feelings of sadness, depression and anger prevail. After a successful IVF-treatment, IVF-parents experience more stress during pregnancy than 'normal fertile' parents. Mothers with children conceived by IVF express a higher quality of parent-child relationship than mothers with a naturally conceived child. Research further suggests that psychosocial factors, like ineffective coping strategies, anxiety and/or depression are associated with a lower pregnancy rate following IVF-procedures. In addition, support has been found suggesting that stress reduction through relaxation training or behavioral treatment improves conception rates.

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