IVF does not increase risk of divorce, study finds

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IVF is a lot of things – stressful, disheartening, painful and emotional – but one thing it's not is a cause of divorce.

A study of 40,000 women, found that despite IVF putting immense pressure on a relationship, it does not increase the risk of divorce. If anything, it can help strengthen relationships.

"Our results will be reassuring for couples who have had or are contemplating IVF," investigator Dr Mariana Martins from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Porto, Portugal, said.

"Findings on the security of relationships and parenthood can be particularly helpful in supporting patients' commitment to treatment."

Researchers examined registry data of all women having assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Denmark between 1994 and 2009. There were 42,845 patients' data examined.

The participants' marital/cohabiting status was confirmed for two years before inclusion in the study and then matched for age with a control group from the general population who did not use ART. Updates were then gathered over a 16-year period.

What was discovered was really interesting.

Of those studied, 65 per cent of the ART couples had children and 56 per cent of the non-ART couples had kids. Around one-fifth ended up divorced or separated (20 per cent ART vs 22 per cent non-ART).

"The significant interaction between ART status and common children suggests that the risk of break-up is mainly influenced by childlessness," Dr Martins said.

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She went on to explain that while ART can cause stress and anxiety it could also help to strengthen relationships.

"We have previously found that subjects who divorce, repartner and come back to treatment are the ones that five years before had the most stress," she said.

"We also know that despite all the strain that this infertility can bring, going through ART can actually bring benefit to a couple's relationship, because it forces them to improve communication and coping strategies.

"We believe that providing couples with appropriate knowledge and expectations about success rates and the burden that ART can bring to a marriage will make treatment much easier for most couples."