Seize the future

Primary research

Multiple studies have shown that women and couples who do not have biological children (due to fertility problems or other reasons) report clinically significant lower mental health and quality of life than women and couples with children.

Very recently we conducted a highly controlled study with a nationally representative sample of 7148 Dutch women who had done fertility treatment at any of the 12 IVF hospitals in the Netherlands from 1995 to 2000. The study shows that 11 to 17 years after treatment, twenty-one per cent of these women remained childless and 5.9% still sustained a child-wish. A previous study had shown that when only 2 years passed since treatment around 50% of women still wish for a child.

Our study is novel in that it shows that it is not the women’s parental status (having children or not) that is associated with their mental health but if they sustain a child-wish or not, that is, their ability to come to terms with their unmet parenthood plans.

More specifically, we found that women who still wished to have children were up to 2.8 times more likely to develop clinically significant mental health problems than women who did not sustain a child-wish. Furthermore, the link between a sustained wish for children and worse mental health was present irrespective of the women’s background, clinical characteristics and fertility treatment history.

This piece of research clearly shows that these women are at risk for mental-health problems and should be provided with psychosocial support.

Read our study here.

‘You feel all these horrible emotions and you just can’t see a way through it.'

'The anger, is just…terrible.'

'You just don’t know where you are, what you’re supposed… you know… you just don’t know yourself… You know how you’re feeling because you’re grief-stricken but you don’t know how to process it….’