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Post-partum depressive symptoms and medically assisted conception: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Authors: F. Gressier, A. Letranchant, O. Cazas, A.L. Sutter-Dallay, B. Falissard, P. Hardy
DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dev207

STUDY QUESTION Does medically assisted conception increase the risk of post-partum depressive symptoms?

SUMMARY ANSWER Our literature review and meta-analysis showed no increased risk of post-partum depressive symptoms in women after medically assisted conception.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Women who conceive with medically assisted conception, which can be considered as a stressful life event, could face an increased risk of depressive symptoms. However, no previous meta-analysis has been performed on the association between medically assisted conception and post-partum depressive symptoms.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION A systematic review with electronic searches of PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge and PsycINFO databases up to December 2014 was conducted to identify articles evaluating post-partum depressive symptoms in women who had benefited from medically assisted conception compared with those with a spontaneous pregnancy. Meta-analyses were also performed on clinically significant post-partum depressive symptoms according to PRISMA guidelines.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS From 569 references, 492 were excluded on title, 42 on abstract and 17 others on full-text. Therefore, 18 studies were included in the review and 8 in the meta-analysis (2451 women) on clinically significant post-partum depressive symptoms after medically assisted conception compared with a spontaneous pregnancy. A sensitivity meta-analysis on assisted reproductive technologies and spontaneous pregnancy (6 studies, 1773 women) was also performed. The quality of the studies included in the meta-analyses was evaluated using the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology Statement for observational research. The data were pooled using RevMan software by the Cochrane Collaboration. Heterogeneity between studies was assessed from the results of the χ2 and I2 statistics. Biases were assessed with funnel plots and Egger’s test. A fixed effects model was used for the meta-analyses because of the low level of heterogeneity between the studies.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE The systematic review of studies examining post-partum depressive symptoms after medically assisted conception compared with spontaneous pregnancy is not in favor of an association. Our meta-analysis on clinically significant post-partum depressive symptoms showed no significant difference between women who used medically assisted conception and those with spontaneous pregnancy: odds ratio (OR)=0.93 (0.67–1.31), Z=0.40, P=0.69. The sensitivity meta-analysis reported no significant difference either: OR=1.04 (0.71–1.52), Z=0.18, P=0.86.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The literature on post-partum depressive symptoms and medically assisted conception is sparse. Only eight studies were available for our meta-analysis taking into account the rates of clinically significant post-partum depressive symptoms after medically assisted conception. However, the quality of the studies was high and the heterogeneity between trials was not significant. Whilst post-partum anxiety is more prevalent than depressive states and they can co-occur, it was not considered in these review and meta-analyses. In addition, other risk factors, such as maternal age, socio-demographic data or obstetric factors, are important for the assessment of post-partum depressive symptoms. Our review reported that several of these confounding risk factors were, however, analyzed and controlled for in the studies.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS Our literature review and meta-analyses showed no increased risk of post-partum depressive symptoms in women after medically assisted conception. Even if the rates of depressive symptoms are the same in the medically assisted conception population as among controls, the risk factors could be different. Though medically assisted conception can be considered as a stressful life event, these women have also lower prevalence of the usual risks. Professionals should also be careful to screen for prenatal and post-partum depressive symptoms, as with all pregnant women. Further studies are needed to clarify the specific features of post-partum depressive symptoms in this population.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) No funding was obtained for the study.

Trial registration number NA.

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