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Psychological Correlates of Prenatal Attachment in Women Who Conceived After In Vitro Fertilization and Women Who Conceived Naturally

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Background: Investigators have pointed out that long-awaited pregnancies, such as those after in vitro fertilization (IVF), are emotionally vulnerable. In addition, higher pregnancy-related distress has been found among women pregnant after in vitro fertilization compared with women with “naturally” achieved pregnancy. The aim of this study was to compare prenatal attachment among IVF mothers and control mothers (women who conceived naturally), and to study relationships between prenatal attachment and psychosocial variables. Methods: Fifty-six IVF women from IVF clinics and 41 control women from antenatal clinics in Stockholm were assessed in gestational weeks 26 and 36. They completed self-rating scales measuring prenatal attachment, personality, marital relationship, anxiety, and depression. Results: Prenatal attachment increased as the pregnancy progressed in both groups. Prenatal attachment rated in gestational week 26 was significantly associated with that in gestational week 36. Multiple regression analyses showed that, in gestational week 26, prenatal attachment was explained by satisfaction with the partner relationship, whereas in gestational week 36 the factors contributing to high prenatal attachment were low scores of the personality trait detachment, low ambivalence, and younger age. Method of conception was unrelated to prenatal attachment at either assessment time point. Conclusions: In vitro fertilization mothers are attached to their unborn children to the same extent as other mothers. Prenatal attachment increases during pregnancy. At the same time, however, individual scores on prenatal attachment seem to be relatively stable. Significant contributors to prenatal attachment are marital satisfaction, age, ambivalence, and detachment. (BIRTH 33:4 December 2006)

Keywords: in vitro fertilization; longitudinal study; marital relationship; personality; prenatal attachment

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ann-Marie Widström is Associate Professor at the Division of Reproductive and Perinatal Health Care, Department of Woman and Child Health 2: Aila Collins is Associate Professor at the Division of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Publication date: December 1, 2006


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