Researchers followed couples after they first sought assistance with fertility issues. Women who didn't have a child over the next 12 years were up to three times more likely to get divorced or end the relationship compared to women who gave birth to a child during that follow-up period, the investigators found.
The study included more than 47,500 women in Denmark who were evaluated for infertility between 1990 and 2006. Among this group, 57 percent gave birth after fertility treatment.
The findings are published in the Jan. 29 online edition of the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"Our findings suggest that not having a child after fertility treatment may adversely affect the duration of a relationship for couples with fertility issues," said study lead author Trille Kristina Kjaer, of the survivorship unit at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen.
"Further investigations that account for marital quality and relational well-being of couples with fertility problems are now needed," Kjaer noted in a journal news release.
Previous research has examined the effects of infertility and suggested that women may be more deeply affected. Failing to have a baby despite efforts can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety for the couple and may negatively affect their quality of life, the study authors noted in the news release.
However, the researchers added, other studies have suggested that a fertility struggle can also bring a couple closer together, creating what is sometimes called a "marital benefit" brought on by sharing a common hardship.
While the study found an association between failed fertility treatment efforts and breakups among couples, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
For more about infertility, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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