This systematic review aimed to investigate the inconsistency of research data concerning the contribution of systematic psychosocial interventions to infertility treatments. More specifically, the objective of this review was to investigate the cause of the contradictions in the results of contemporary research with respect to the role of systematic psychosocial interventions in the success of fertility treatments. The suspected cause of these contradictions is the heterogeneity of the relevant clinical studies with respect to their methodology. Thus, the specific aim of the current review was to evaluate the degree of heterogeneity of certain parameters in the design of the relevant clinical studies during the last decade, including sample heterogeneity, assisted reproductive technology methods, types of psychosocial interventions and methods of recording and analyzing psychometric data. This investigation may be considered imperative considering that despite the great number of relevant clinical studies and their meta-analyses, there are still no conclusive results concerning the potential of improving fertility through psychosocial support. Search for relevant studies was performed employing the PubMed and Google Scholar databases based on specific criteria. According to these criteria the selected publications have been meta-analyses of clinical studies on humans, evaluating the effect of psychosocial interventions on the success of assisted reproductive treatments during the last decade. The studies may have included all the different infertility etiologies, as well as all types of assisted reproductive treatments. The extensive search based on the specific inclusion/exclusion criteria resulted in reporting results from 6 studies in total. The clinical studies included have reported on various types of interventions for psychosocial support such as individual, couples’ or group therapies performed either in facilities offering mental health services or in the form of home-based self-treatment. Moreover, these studies investigated various techniques of stress management ranging from counseling to specialized methods such as biofeedback and diaphragmatic breathing or alternative techniques such as yoga and meditation. Our results suggest that clinical studies designed specifically to evaluate the effect of systematic interventions on the efficacy of fertility treatments are limited. Moreover, their degree of heterogeneity is highly significant with respect to included participants, treatment protocols, psychosocial support techniques as well as methods for the documentation and statistical analysis of psychometric data. Consequently, the conduction of well-design clinical studies based on strict criteria aiming to investigate specific infertility causes, similar fertility treatment protocols or particular types of psychosocial interventions is necessary in order to reach definitive conclusions.

KEYWORDS: systematic review, stress management, psychosocial intervention, Assisted Reproductive Technology, meta-analysis

Maria Koumparou, Panagiotis Bakas, George Chrousos, Marina Economou


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