The Truth about Taking Antidepressants during IVF

Since the first IVF success in the late 1970s, in vitro fertilization (IVF) has changed society’s perception of fertility and given hope to numerous families that they, too, can build a family. Developments over the past several decades have further advanced assisted reproductive technology (ART), reducing risk, and increasing the chance of conceiving a healthy baby. The stories of success, while numerous, are not without moments of stress. The journey towards conception for someone facing infertility can be emotional and may sometimes cause anxiety or depression resulting in the need to seek treatments for these conditions.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are most commonly prescribed to alleviate anxiety and depression. SSRIs block the reuptake of serotonin in the brain resulting in more serotonin available to be used. Low levels of serotonin have proven to be associated with both sadness and anxiety. Blocking their reuptake, allows for a robust level of serotonin to build and, ultimately, generate mood-stabilizing effects such calm and increased happiness.

Since a number of individuals facing infertility may choose to use SSRIs during their family building journey, it is important to understand the effect of this prescribed medication on embryo development. Previous studies have shown that the development of an embryo is influenced by serotonin exposure. However, until now, no reported study has analyzed the influence of patients taking SSRIs on embryo developmental and chromosomal status. In a retrospective study, RMA of New York investigated whether maternal SSRI exposure before IVF affects the rate of embryo development and chromosome number as well as whether SSRI exposure adversely affects IVF pregnancy outcomes.

Embryonic aneuploidy, or, the condition in which an embryo has the incorrect number of chromosomes, is recognized as one of the major drivers of reproductive failure. This study’s results suggest that SSRIs do not adversely affect the number of chromosomes in an embryo. Additionally, IVF outcomes are not statistically significantly modified by exposure to SSRIs even when exposed before and/or during IVF treatment. Embryo development and chromosome segregation in vivo are not affected by the exposure to SSRIs during IVF treatment.

Between 7% and 15.5% of American couples will be diagnosed with infertility among which 11% to 54% will experience stress, anxiety, and depression before and/or during fertility treatments. This study should alleviate concern from patients’ considering using or currently using SSRIs. Of course, it is wise to consult your physician if you use or plan to use antidepressants during IVF or other fertility treatments. Further investigation and long term follow-up of infertile patients with anxiety or depression and follow-up of their progeny is needed for clinicians to better understand any impact of SSRIs on offspring development.

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