Infertility affects patients mentally as well as physically

May 24, 2006

Two separate studies have found that men and women dealing withinfertility suffer from depression and anxiety at a greater ratethan the general population.

Two separate studies have found that men and women dealing with infertility suffer from depression and anxiety at a greater rate than the general population.

"We wanted to switch gears a little bit, and instead of talking about the causes of male factor infertility, we wanted to look at the effects of the infertility as far as psychological issues," said Shane Russell, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago.

A study by Dr. Russell and colleagues used validated questionnaires to assess the levels of anxiety, depression, and strain on marital relationships of couples being evaluated for male factor infertility. The results indicated that 56% of the women had higher levels of anxiety than the normal range for women in general, while 16.3% of men were above the normal range. Also, 25.6% of men and 64% of women were above the normal range for depression.

"Despite the elevated levels of depression and anxiety, couples did not report an increased strain on their interpersonal relationships," Dr. Russell said.

The second study, from Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, focused on how the infertility of either partner affected the quality of life of men specifically. The data indicated that 23% of the participants had moderate depressive symptoms, and 8% had severe depression. Presenter and lead author Michael Ohebshalom, MD, said urologists should work in tandem with psychiatrists to possibly treat men dealing with infertility who are depressed.

"Men could develop a decreased urge for intercourse and possibly even erectile dysfunction as effects of the depression," he explained.