Doctors exploring choices made by childless couples facing in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatment said Tuesday they had uncovered important clues about mood swings that heavily influenced a life-altering decision.
IVF, sometimes called 'test-tube baby' treatment, entails retrieving eggs from the woman's ovary and fertilising them with her partner's sperm in a lab dish, creating embryos that can then be implanted into the womb.
An important decision, though, is whether to transfer only a single embryo or more embryos at the same time.
Research has shown that pregnancies with single embryos suffer less complications and the baby is likely to have a higher birthweight and have fewer developmental problems than twins or triplets.
On the other hand, multiple embryo implants, despite this risk, offer a statistically higher chance of a pregnancy compared to a single embryo transfer.
Canadian doctors at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, carried out research into the emotional factors that can drive a woman to one or either of these options.
Reporting at a major conference, they investigated the emotional state of 129 female infertility patients one month before IVF treatment.
The volunteers were asked about their mood states, their social, sexual and relationship stress and about whether they preferred to have a singleton, twin or triplet pregnancy, and which of these was considered more risky.
The investigators found a clear link between a negative mood and a greater willingness to take risk -- to go for the multiple embryo transfer.
The research, headed by Christopher Newton, was unveiled at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), taking place in this southeastern French city.
Newton said he next planned to see whether giving women full and accurate information about risk influenced their decision on how many embryos should be transferred.
'If infertility patients were to gain a better understanding of the risks and benefits of transferring more or fewer embryos, and the acceptability of SET (single-embryo transfer) were to increase, there could be huge benefits, not just emotionally and physically to mothers and children, but also in terms of costs to healthcare systems,' he said.