Unwanted Infertility "Doubles Risk" of Substance Abuse

By May Wilkerson 07/02/12

Women who get fertility treatment but can't conceive are twice as likely to be hospitalized for substance abuse, a study finds.

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Much has been said about addicted moms, both during pregnancy and after—but what about those who want to be moms, and can't? Women who never have children due to infertility are at a much higher risk of substance abuse, according to a new study from Europe; other serious psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, were also found to be higher among these women. Researchers at the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre tracked almost 100,000 women who had been to an infertility specialist, and then compared two groups: those who went on to have children, and those who did not. They found that hospitalizations for alcoholism or substance abuse were more than twice as likely to occur in women who remained childless. The researchers say these findings are “only the tip of the iceberg”—since the numbers only reflect those whose conditions required in-patient treatment, the actual substance abuse among this group could be much higher. Dr. Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society, says: “I was aware that women who were unable to have children were not happy and had difficulty with their ongoing lives, but these results are really shocking.” The risk appeared just as high even a decade after the women tried to conceive—suggesting a need for continuous psychological support for women who undergo unsuccessful infertility treatment.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.