Addressing the needs of fertility treatment patients and their partners: are they informed of and do they receive mental health services?

Psychological distress is common during fertility treatment, but most patients and partners, even those who are very distressed, are not referred for and do not receive mental health services.


Lauri A. Pasch, Ph.D., Sarah R. Holley, Ph.D., Maria E. Bleil, Ph.D., Dena Shehab, Ph.D., Patricia P. Katz, Ph.D., Nancy E. Adler, Ph.D.



To determine the extent to which fertility patients and partners received mental health services (MHS) and were provided with information about MHS by their fertility clinics, and whether the use of MHS, or the provision of information about MHS by fertility clinics, was targeted to the most distressed individuals.


Prospective longitudinal cohort study.


Five fertility practices.


A total of 352 women and 274 men seeking treatment for infertility.


No interventions administered.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Depression, anxiety, and MHS information provision and use.


We found that 56.5% of women and 32.1% of men scored in the clinical range for depressive symptomatology at one or more assessments and that 75.9% of women and 60.6% of men scored in the clinical range for anxiety symptomatology at one or more assessments. Depression and anxiety were higher for women and men who remained infertile compared with those who were successful. Overall, 21% of women and 11.3% of men reported that they had received MHS, and 26.7% of women and 24.1% of men reported that a fertility clinic made information available to them about MHS. Women and men who reported significant depressive or anxiety symptoms, even those with prolonged symptoms, were no more likely than other patients to have received information about MHS.


Psychological distress is common during fertility treatment, but most patients and partners do not receive and are not referred for MHS. Furthermore, MHS use and referral is not targeted to those at high risk for serious psychological distress. More attention needs to be given to the mental health needs of our patients and their partners.

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