Study Finds Lower IVF Success Rates in Women with Depression

norbert_gleicher_mdAccording to a recent Swedish research, women undergoing IVF after a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or had taken antidepressant, had lower success rates with IVF than women without this experience. The researchers compared women who are undergoing their first IVF cycle who either had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, or had taken an antidepressant to women who did not. They found that pregnancy rates and live birth rates after IVF were lower in women with depression compared to women without.

The findings of this study did not come as a surprise to CHR. As Norbert Gleicher, MD, Medical Director and Chief Scientist of CHR (left), pointed out many years ago, maternal depression behaves like a typical autoimmune disease when it comes to reproduction. Since autoimmune disease reduces IVF pregnancy chances, it’s not surprising that women with depression have lower pregnancy chances with IVF.

Dr. Gleicher’s assertions were primarily in regards to complications of pregnancy, while the recently published Swedish study refers to pregnancy success with IVF. According to Dr. Gleicher, women with depression demonstrate during pregnancy the two quintessential complications associated with all autoimmune diseases:

  1. Premature labor and delivery
  2. Postpartum disease flairs

In this light, postpartum depression can be seen as an example of flair-ups of autoimmune diseases after delivery. (You may have seen postpartum depression attracting considerable attention in the media recently.) Now, this Swedish study also demonstrates that women with depressions demonstrate typical autoimmune effects on female fertility, characterized by lower pregnancy chances in association with IVF.

Evidence has been accumulating in medical research in psychiatric diseases toward autoimmunity as a potential disease mechanism in a variety of psychiatric diseases, including depression. The concept of depression (and, likely other psychiatric diseases) being autoimmune conditions, therefore, does deserve further exploration. It would open new therapeutic avenues for prevention and therapeutics.


Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.