Psychosocial wellbeing shortly after allocation to a freeze-all strategy compared with a fresh transfer strategy in women and men: a sub-study of a randomized controlled trial

Sara Pind Pilegaard*, Lone Schmidt, Sacha Stormlund, Emily Koert, Jeanette Wulff Bogstad, Lisbeth Prætorius, Henriette Svarre Nielsen, Nina la Cour Freiesleben, Negjyp Sopa, Anna Klajnbard, Peter Humaidan, Christina Bergh, Anne Lis Mikkelsen Englund, Kristine Løssl, Anja Pinborg

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Abstract

STUDY QUESTION: Is the psychosocial wellbeing affected in women and men shortly after allocation to a freeze-all strategy with postponement of embryo transfer compared to a fresh transfer strategy?

SUMMARY ANSWER: In general, psychosocial wellbeing (i.e. emotional reactions to the treatment, quality-of-life, infertility-related stress, and marital benefit) was similar in women and men allocated to a freeze-all versus those allocated to a fresh-transfer strategy 6 days after disclosure of treatment strategy (i.e. 4 days after oocyte retrieval), although women in the freeze-all group reported a slightly higher degree of depressive symptoms and mood swings compared to women in the fresh transfer group.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The use of a freeze-all strategy, i.e. freezing of the entire embryo cohort followed by elective frozen embryo transfer in subsequent cycles has increased steadily over the past decade in assisted reproductive technology (ART). This strategy essentially eliminates the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and has proven beneficial regarding some reproductive outcomes in subgroups of women. However, patients experience a longer time interval between oocyte retrieval and embryo transfer, hence a longer time to pregnancy, possibly adding additional stress to the ART treatment. So far, little focus has been on the possible psychosocial strains caused by postponement of embryo transfer.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a self-reported questionnaire based sub-study of a multicentre randomized controlled trial (RCT) including 460 women and 396 male partners initiating their first, second, or third treatment cycle of invitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) from May 2016 to September 2018. This sub-study was included in the primary project protocol and project plan for the RCT, as psychosocial wellbeing was considered a secondary outcome.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Women from eight public fertility clinics in Denmark and Sweden and one private clinic in Spain were randomized in a 1:1 ratio on the day of inclusion (menstrual cycle day 2 or 3) to either a freeze-all strategy with postponement of embryo transfer to a subsequent modified natural menstrual cycle or a fresh transfer strategy with embryo transfer in the hormone stimulated cycle. Treatment allocation was blinded until the day of the ovulation trigger. Women and their male partners were asked to complete a validated self-reported questionnaire 6 days after unblinding of treatment group allocation, corresponding to 4 days after oocyte retrieval, investigating their psychosocial wellbeing related to the treatment defined as emotional reactions to the treatment, quality-of-life, infertility-related stress, and marital benefit. The questionnaire included items from the Copenhagen Multi-Centre Psychosocial Infertility (COMPI) Fertility Problem Stress Scales and the COMPI Marital Benefit Measure.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Baseline characteristics were comparable between the two groups for both women and men. In total, response rates were 90.7% for women and 90.2% for men. In the freeze-all group, 207 women and 179 men completed the questionnaire compared with 204 women and 178 men in the fresh transfer group. Men in the two treatment groups did not differ in any of the explored aspects of psychosocial wellbeing (i.e. emotional reactions to the treatment, quality-of-life, infertility-related stress, and marital benefit) 6 days after disclosure of treatment strategy. Women in the freeze-all group reported a slightly higher degree of depressive symptoms (P = 0.045) and mood swings (P = 0.001) (i.e. variables included in 'emotional reactions to treatment') compared to women in the fresh transfer group. When adjusted for multiple testing, depressive symptoms were no longer significantly different between the two groups. No additional differences in psychosocial wellbeing were found. Self-reported quality-of-life during treatment was also rated as similar between the two groups in both women and men, but was slightly lower than they would rate their quality-of-life when not in fertility treatment.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Although response rates were high, selection bias cannot be excluded. As this study was an RCT, we assume that psychosocial characteristics of the participants were equally distributed in the two groups, thus it is unlikely that the identified psychosocial differences between the freeze-all and fresh transfer group were present already at baseline. Furthermore, the questionnaire was completed as a one-time assessment 4 days after oocyte retrieval, thus not reflecting the whole treatment process, whereas an assessment after the full completed treatment cycle is needed to draw firm conclusions about the psychosocial consequences of the whole waiting period. However, a question posted that late would be highly biased on whether or not a pregnancy had been achieved.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The results indicate that individuals in the freeze-all group exhibited slightly higher levels of depressive symptoms and mood swings compared to those in the fresh transfer group. Nevertheless, it is important to note that any worries related to potential emotional strains stemming from delaying embryo transfer should not overshadow the adoption of a freeze-all approach in cases where it is clinically recommended. As long as patients are provided with comprehensive information about the treatment strategy before initiating the process, it is worth emphasising that other aspects of psychosocial wellbeing were comparable between the two groups.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): The study is part of the Reprounion collaborative study, co-financed by the European Union, Interreg V Öresund-Kattegat-Skagerrak. L.P. reports financial support from Merck A/S. H.S.N. reports grants from Freya Biosciences ApS, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, BioInnovation Institute, Ministry of Education, Novo Nordic Foundation, Augustinus Fonden, Oda og Hans Svenningsens Fond, Demant Fonden, Ole Kirks Fond and Independent Research Fund Denmark and personal fees from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Merck A/S, Astra Zeneca, Cook Medical, IBSA Nordic and Gedeon Richter. H.S.N is founder and chairman of the Maternity Foundation and co-developed the Safe Delivery App (non-profit). N.C.F. reports grants from Gedeon Richter, Merck A/S, Cryos International and financial support from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Merck A/S and Gedeon Richter. N.C.F. is chairman in the steering committee for the guideline groups for The Danish Fertility Society (non-profit). P.H. reports honoraria from Merch A/S, IBSA Nordic and Gedeon Richter. A.L.M.E. reports grants and financial support from Merck A/S and Gedeon Richter. A.P. reports grants from Gedeon Richter, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Merck A/S and personal fees from Preglem S.A., Novo Nordic Foundation, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Gedeon Richter, Cryos International, Merch A/S, Theramex and Organon and the lend of embryoscope to the institution from Gedeon Richter. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02746562.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Vol/bind38
Udgave nummer11
Sider (fra-til)2175-2186
Antal sider12
ISSN0268-1161
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2 nov. 2023

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