Stress of fertility treatment does not increase divorce risk, study finds

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Undergoing fertility treatment does not increase a couple’s risk of getting divorced, according to a new study.

The findings dispel the belief that the stress of undergoing treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can put intolerable strain on relationships.

The study, presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Geneva, drew on findings from a registry of women having assisted reproduction treatment in Denmark between 1994 and 2009.

Researchers examined data on 42,845 patients - including their marital status - and compared it to a control group from the general population.

During the 16 years of follow-up the majority of couples had children - 56% from the general population and 65% of those undergoing fertility treatment.

And around one-fifth from each group ended up separated or divorced - 20% of those who had fertility treatments compared to 22% of the general population.

Although initial findings did reveal a lower risk of break-up among the couples who had assisted reproduction treatment, when subsequent children were added to the model, and after adjusting for both partners’ age, education and partnership status, no difference in the risk of marriage or partnership break-up was found.

“Our results will be reassuring for couples who have had or are contemplating IVF,” said investigator Dr Mariana Martins from the University of Porto in Portugal.

“Findings on the security of relationships and parenthood can be particularly helpful in supporting patients’ commitment to treatment.”

Dr Martins added: “We also know that despite all the strain that this infertility can bring, going through assisted reproduction treatment can actually bring benefit to a couple’s relationship, because it forces them to improve communication and coping strategies.”

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