Journal Article

A 10-year follow-up study of psychosocial factors affecting couples after infertility treatment<sup>†</sup>

T. Wischmann, K. Korge, H. Scherg, T. Strowitzki and R. Verres

in Human Reproduction

Published on behalf of European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Volume 27, issue 11, pages 3226-3232
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0268-1161
Published online August 2012 | e-ISSN: 1460-2350 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/des293
A 10-year follow-up study of psychosocial factors affecting couples after infertility treatment†

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BACKGROUND

Little is known about the long-term course taken in life by couples who had undergone medically assisted reproduction (MAR). The aim of this study was to find out in a large sample whether, in comparison with parents, involuntarily childless couples have a different subjective perception of overall and specific quality of life over a period of >10 years.

METHODS

Between 1994 and 1997, 564 couples participated in the initial Heidelberg Fertility Consultation Service study of psychosocial aspects of infertility. In March 2008, a follow-up questionnaire was sent to all of these couples. Both partners were asked about the current status of their desire for a child and their satisfaction with life, their self-esteem, partnership, sexuality and career, as well as their current attitude towards the MAR they had undergone and experience of the process.

RESULTS

The final sample consisted of 148 couples and 60 women (response rate: 41% of the women and 31% of the men contacted). Fifty-nine percent of the women had at least one genetically related child, 11% had a foster or adopted child and 30% remained childless. Comparisons of psychological variables between parents and childless couples were done for the 148 couples only. Post-MAR parents indicated significantly higher self-esteem than childless couples (P < 0.01) and were more inclined to go through the infertility treatment again than childless couples (P < 0.001 for women, P < 0.05 for men). Positive aspects of infertility were seen more often by childless couples than by parents (P < 0.001). Childless women reported more occupational satisfaction than mothers (P < 0.01), while no such difference was identified in the male partners. Concerning overall life satisfaction, satisfaction with friendships and the partnership, and sexual satisfaction there were no statistically significant differences between childless women/men and mothers/fathers.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, our 10-year follow-up survey indicated good psychological adjustment both in childless couples and in post-MAR parents. A decline of sexual satisfaction in childless couples (often reported in the literature) was not observed in this large sample. Quality of life in the long-term can safely be said to be high, both in the definitively childless couples and the post-MAR parents. These findings should be integrated into the information and counselling for would-be parents prior to infertility treatment. A major limitation of this study is that the majority of women and men from the initial study did not respond in our follow-up study.

Keywords: follow-up; psychosocial factors; definitive infertility; quality of life; risk factors

Journal Article.  5828 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Reproductive Medicine

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