The Daily Mail's headline was better, albeit still "duh" inducing: "Infertility really does cause heartache."
Despite the groaners, these articles do highlight an interesting new study about infertility and childlessness that was published this week in the journal Human Reproduction. I'd encourage you to read the abstract and/or full text of the study itself (about 9 PDF pages), which followed up with 7,148 women who underwent fertility treatment 11-17 years earlier at one of 12 IVF hospitals in The Netherlands. Here are a few of the highlights:
- The study suggests that it's not so much how badly you wanted children that affects your mental health, but how successful you are at letting go of that dream (whether you have children or not).
- Women who already had children but wanted more had worse mental health than women who wanted children, didn't have them, but were able to move on with their lives.
- Infertility patients need to be better informed about all possible treatment outcomes -- including possibility of failure -- and better supported with non-treatment options, coping strategies and other resources when treatment ends. "An anthropological study focusing on daily practice in reproductive care suggests that currently this does not happen," the study says. "...Indeed, childless couples coping with ending treatment express the need to find new role models who can help them realize how to live a life without children."
- "It is easier to let go of a child-wish if women find other things in life that are fulfilling, like a career," says Dr. Sofia Gameiro, one of the chief authors of the study.
The paper, which was published online on Sept. 10 in Human Reproduction, recommends sustained psychological counseling for people who did not conceive after fertility treatments and a lot of frank talk about the possibility of failure during the treatments. The author also throws some shade on those “I-can-do-anything-if I-try” types (cough, Americans, cough). “There is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being,” said Gameiro. “We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment.”This fits entirely with the book I recently read & reviewed here, "Mastering the Art of Quitting."
I also liked some of the stuff in this article/video clip from the Today show about the study (even though -- spoiler alert & warning -- it ends with a stereotypical "miracle" pregnancy after adoption story).