Page 7 2012 Vol 2
Jean Hailes research
Women who conceive a baby using assisted reproductive technology (ART) are more likely to be admitted to residential early parenting services in the year after giving birth, according to leading research by investigators at the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University.
A world-first study by Professor Jane Fisher, Dr Karin Hammarberg and Dr Heather Rowe found that women who conceive through ART are 3.4 times more likely to use a residential early parenting service in the year after giving birth than women who conceive naturally.
These services provide residential programs for parents whose infants are unsettled and who are experiencing anxiety, depression, severe fatigue or difficulties adapting to parenthood.
“There can be an expectation that when you have a baby after waiting a long time everything will be straightforward and joyful,” says Professor Jane Fisher, Director of the Jean Hailes Research Unit. “But research indicates that women who conceive using ART might have additional, although unrecognised, needs once their babies are born.”
The study followed 153 women who became pregnant using ART from early pregnancy until their children were 18-months-old. Dr Hammarberg says that many of the women had an ‘idealised picture’ of motherhood, which might have made them less well prepared for the isolation, fatigue and repetitive work of looking after a baby.
Participants were also less likely to receive help from family and friends, who might underestimate the new mother’s needs and assume that she will feel nothing but happiness.
“It is also likely that these women believe they should feel lucky and grateful. This might make it difficult to acknowledge the mixed feelings that all mothers experience,” says Dr Rowe.
“Women who conceive spontaneously often feel free to complain, which mobilises support. However, after ART which has cost a lot of money and taken a long time, women might not dare to say ‘this is difficult’, leading to assumptions that they don’t need help.” Women in the study also had lowered parenting confidence, so when their baby became unsettled they were more alarmed. This may be the result of experiencing repeated reproductive losses, having a closely scrutinised pregnancy, a caesarean birth (almost 50%) and breastfeeding difficulties.
“These experiences can lead women to become worried about anything happening to their baby. Their mothering was fine but they didn’t have belief in their parenting ability,” says Dr Hammarberg. The researchers say the study highlights the need for those close to a woman who has a baby by ART to offer help and ask her how she is feeling rather than simply say ‘you’re so lucky’.
“We also think there’s a role for maternal, child and family health nurses to ask explicitly if there are any difficulties when they see a woman who has conceived with ART, and to provide encouragement, information and affirmation about their caregiving skills so maternal confidence grows.”
It’s important to offer help and to ask a woman
how she is feeling after having a baby by ART
Take part in a research study
Fertility management in Australia
Having children when you want them (and only when you want them)
Have you or your partner had trouble getting pregnant?
Have you or your partner sought an abortion?
Have relationship problems (or the lack of a relationship) disrupted your plans for children?
Do you have more or fewer children than you wanted?
Do you have exactly the right number of children?
What advice do you have for people trying to manage their fertility today?
What would you like to tell politicians, policy makers, educators, or others about helping people in Australia to manage their fertility?
Your story could help others
We are looking for men and women to take part in interviews about how you manage your fertility. The results will be used to help people have children when they want them, and avoid pregnancy when they don’t.
Who can participate?
Women and men aged 18-50 and able to communicate in English.
What you’ll be asked to do You can choose to be interviewed face-to-face or by telephone. Interviews will take around an hour.
How to be involved
This study is a collaboration between Jean Hailes, Monash University, the Royal Women’s Hospital, Family Planning Victoria, Melbourne IVF and the Victorian Department of Health.
Testosterone, sexual dysfunction & antidepressants
Has your libido decreased since starting antidepressant therapy?
Would you like to join a study looking at the effects of testosterone on sexual dysfunction associated with antidepressants?
If you are aged 35-55, have taken a stable dose of antidepressant medication for the past three months and are experiencing loss of sexual desire or arousal, you are invited to take part in this study.
Participation involves four visits to the Women’s Health Research Program at the Alfred Centre in Prahran, Melbourne. You will be monitored for six months.
Women’s Health Research Program, Monash University
Content updated September 2012