Hormone drugs are used in IVF to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs and are believed to induce negative mood symptoms including anxiety and fatigue, explained Dr Miki Bloch, from the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, who led the study. Dr Bloch and his team looked at one type of drug, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist known as GnRH-a, and hypothesised that giving women a 'short course' of GnRH-a, associated with a less significant drop in oestrogen levels, would reduce the risk of experiencing psychological distress during treatment.
Amongst the 108 IVF patients who took part in the study, 48 women were randomly assigned to receive a long course of GnRH-a treatment, beginning with injections for two weeks, which causes oestrogen levels to fall. The remaining 60 women received a shorter four-week course of egg-inducing drugs.
The women completed questionnaires on depression and anxiety at various intervals during the study, but researchers found no association between what the responses indicated, and whether the women had received the short or long GnRH-a regimen.
'The two protocols were comparable in the induction of mood symptoms', wrote Dr Bloch and colleagues in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
The findings indicate that mood symptoms associated with IVF may not be linked to the low-levels of oestrogen hormone drugs induce but may be influenced by other factors including the general stress of treatment, say the researchers. Dr Bloch told Reuters Health: 'the emotional response to the fertility treatment and the stress involved is a strong enough trigger to induce significant mood symptoms in many women, and this is irrespective of the short-term use of a (GnRH-a)'.
The results may be of use to doctors, say the researchers, who can base the decision as to which regimen to prescribe based on an individual's treatment priorities, rather than on the risks of possible emotional outcomes.