A new study conducted on tens of thousands of couples has disproven claims that fertility treatments lead to higher divorce rates. In vitro fertilization procedures may be stressful, say researchers, but may ultimately lead to a consolidated relationship, not a breakup.
In 2014, researchers from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen published a study in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavia, claiming that couples who faced fertility issues were exposed to severe stress. It was considered that the outcome of this exposure might ultimately be divorce.
Taking into account the emotional impact that infertility has on couples who are trying to conceive, there have been many claims that fertility treatments also lead to marriage crises, followed by divorce.
New findings indicate that, despite the psychological strain, in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures do not impact divorce rates.
IVF does not lead to divorce
Lead researcher Dr. Mariana Martins, from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Porto in Portugal, and colleagues conducted a study on 42,845 Danish women undergoing fertility treatments between 1994 and 2009.
The study's findings were presented on July 5 at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The women and the progression of their relationships with their partners were followed consistently over a period of 16 years. The outcomes were compared with those of a control group selected from the general female population.
Throughout the follow-up period, 65 percent of the women undergoing fertility treatments had children with their partners, and 20 percent of the women participating in the study filed for divorce.
After making adjustments for variables such as age and education, no major differences were found between groups. It was revealed that both the women participating in the study and those from the control group were at a similar risk of separation.
In other words, exposure to IVF did not increase the likelihood of divorce.
"Our results will be reassuring for couples who have had or are contemplating IVF," says Dr. Martins.
Stress could consolidate relationships
The researchers also suggest that there are no contradictions between the results of their study and previous findings linking infertility to high stress levels within couples. They cite another study published in Fertil Steril in 2014, wherein couples dealing with childlessness were observed both before and after having undergone unsuccessful fertility treatments.
"This significant interaction between [fertility treatment] status and common children suggests that the risk of breakup is mainly influenced by childlessness," Dr. Martins says.
The researchers acknowledge that infertility, failed treatments, and exposure to procedures that do not guarantee positive results increase psychological impact. At the same time, they suggest that learning to overcome these obstacles might, in fact, consolidate relationships.
"We also know that despite all the strain that this infertility can bring, going through [fertility treatments] can actually bring benefit to a couple's relationship, because it forces them to improve communication and coping strategies," they say.
Dr. Martins and colleagues expressed their confidence in the reliability of their results, mentioning the large population sample, the long time period covered by their study, and official, trustworthy sources for their main data. They are hopeful that their research could help childless couples considering IVF.