Women who undergo fertility treatments may find the situation so distressing that they develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study says.
In the study, close to 50 percent of participants met the official criteria for PTSD, meaning they could be diagnosed with the condition.
That's about six times higher than the percentage of people in the general population who suffer from PTSD (8 percent.)
The findings suggest the definition of PTSD may need to be changed so that its causes include potentially traumatic experiences such as infertility, said study researcher Allyson Bradow, director of psychological services at Home of the Innocents, a nonprofit organization that helps families in need in Louisville, Ky.
Currently, the definition of PTSD says people must have experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, or event that could cause serious injury.
"The definition of trauma should be expanded to include expectations of life," said Bradow, who went through fertility treatments herself, and conducted the study as a doctoral student at Spalding University in Louisville. "Having children, expanding your family, carrying on your genetic code — that's an instinctual drive that we have as human beings. And when that is being threatened, it's not necessarily your life being threatened, but your expectation of what your life can be or should be like," she said.
The finding also shows that a greater effort should be made to counsel those who go through fertility treatments, to help them cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the experience, Bradow said.