Attention, Ladies! Depression May Lower Your Chances of Pregnancy

You’re probably already aware of the fact that depression can have a big effect on your mental health and lead to a wide array of physical problems that may affect everything from your heart to your immune system.

Now a new study has warned that depression may lower your chances of getting pregnant too.

Women suffering from severe depression may hamper a woman’s likelihood of becoming pregnant, the novel study has found. Whether or not women are taking psychotropic medications for depression, dealing with this mental disorder can lower their chances of motherhood, it found.

In the study, researchers at Boston University found a 38 percent drop in the average probability to conceive in a given menstrual cycle among women who reported severe depressive symptoms, compared to those with no or low symptoms.

One explanation to the findings could be that depression is already known to dysregulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a brain region responsible for response to stress, which may affect both a woman’s menstrual cycle and her ability to conceive.

“Our findings suggest that moderate to severe depressive symptoms, regardless of current psychotropic medication treatment, may delay conception,” said lead author Yael Nillni, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and a researcher with the National Center for PTSD, Women’s Health Sciences Division of the VA Boston Healthcare System.

For the study, researchers analyzed medical records for 2,146 female pregnancy planners. The study women had been trying to conceive for six months or less in the beginning of the study, and were followed-up for up to a year or until they become pregnant. All the women were asked to report their current depressive symptoms and antidepressant use.

During the study period, 22 percent of the participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression at some point in their lives, 17.2 percent said they had been treated with some type of psychotropic drug and 10.3 percent reported they were using them during the study.

The research team found that regardless of drug use women with severe depression were 38 percent less likely to become pregnant. Women taking benzodiazepines (sedatives used to treat anxiety and other disorders) also were less likely to conceive, although those who had been treated in the past with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, had improved chances of conception.

Researchers acknowledge that more studies need to be conducted to gain clear understanding of the effects of individual drugs, as well as to determine how depression affects fecundity.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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