As if infertility wasn’t already emotionally devastating, a new study shows that women who are unable to have children are more likely to be alcoholics than women with children.
A study conducted by Dr. Birgitte Baldur-Felskov, an epidemiologist at the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre, found that women who suffer from infertility are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for alcoholism than their childbearing counterparts.
Baldur-Felskov told the Telegraph:
“This is only the tip of the iceberg. We were only able to analyze the risk of severe psychiatric disorders resulting in hospitalization.”
The study analyzed data from 98,737 Danish women diagnosed with infertility between 1973 and 2008. The results, which were presented July 1 at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Istanbul, also included data for hospitalizations for schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and other mental disorders, in addition to alcoholism.
54 percent of the women in the study did end up having at least one baby after an average of 12.6 years, and nearly 5,000 of the women were hospitalized with some kind of psychiatric disorder after being diagnosed as infertile. Women who had gotten pregnant but were unable to carry a child to term had significantly higher hospitalization rates than women who had given birth.
Baldur-Felskov went on to say:
“Our study showed that women who remained childless after fertility evaluation had an 18 percent higher risk of all mental disorders than the women who did have at least one baby. These higher risks were evident in alcohol and substance abuse, schizophrenia and eating disorders, although appeared lower in affective disorders including depression.”
The most common diagnosis of “anxiety, adjustment, and obsessive compulsive disorders” were not affected by a woman’s fertility status, and the risk of depression dropped 10 percent among women who were unable to conceive. Alcohol and substance abuse, however, rose by 103 percent, schizophrenia and eating disorders rose by 47 percent and “other mental disorders” rose by 43 percent.
According to Baldur-Felskov, the results show that the inability to conceive after appearing to be fertile was an important modifier for psychiatric disorders, and that it should be considered an important component in treating women suffering from infertility.
British scientists were apparently so shocked by the results that they believe infertility should be classified as a disease and urged their government to increase funding for in-vitro fertilization. which has resulted in 5 million births since the practice was first started 34 years ago. However, it is harder to get IVF treatment in the UK than almost any other European country, making it unlikely that more funding will become available for infertile couples.