Predictors of distress in women being treated for infertility

Laura Mary Miles, Fordham University


According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 6.1 million couples representing all socioeconomic levels, age groups, ethnic backgrounds, and both genders are affected by infertility with research showing that women experience more distress over infertility than men. While the view that psychological factors cause infertility is no longer widely held, distress is still viewed by some as a major contributor to infertility. The relationship between infertility and distress is complex and research has been unable to substantiate a causal direction. ^ Although many studies cite infertility as a highly stressful experience, there is great variability in women's responses to infertility. Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) cognitive phenomenological theory of stress, coping, and appraisal may help to explain these varying distress levels. Gender role identity, career role salience, and societal pressure for motherhood are personal and environmental variables that were hypothesized to affect a woman's cognitive appraisal of an event as stressful, thus impacting distress level. ^ One hundred and nineteen female participants were recruited through New York University Medical Center's In Vitro Fertilization, Reproductive Surgery, and Infertility clinic and through Resolve. Participants completed questionnaires exploring negatively and positively valued gender characteristics, career role salience, social pressure for motherhood, cognitive appraisal and distress as well as demographic and treatment history data forms. ^ Results found that 42% of respondents were experiencing clinically significant levels of global distress. A path analysis was conducted to assess the effects of gender-role identity, career role salience, social pressure for motherhood, and cognitive appraisal, on distress. Results found the model accounted for 32% of the total variance in cognitive appraisal. Women who experienced social pressure for motherhood viewed infertility as more stressful. Women who identified with more positively valued instrumental gender role traits reported less distress. While women who endorsed more negatively valued instrumental gender role traits and cognitively appraised infertility as stressful, reported greater distress. Results also indicated that women who experienced social pressure for motherhood viewed infertility as more stressful and as a result experienced more distress. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Laura Mary Miles, "Predictors of distress in women being treated for infertility" (January 1, 2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3166575.