Evaluation of a communication and stress management training programme for infertile couples

L Schmidt, T Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, J Boivin, A Nyboe Andersen
Patient Education and Counseling 2005, 59 (3): 252-62

OBJECTIVE: This study evaluates a patient education programme focussed on improving communication and stress management skills among couples in fertility treatment.

METHODS: In total, 37 couples completed the intervention. Two teachers conducted all the five courses offered. The effectiveness regarding communication and infertility-related stress was assessed by questionnaires immediately before (time T1) and after the intervention (time T2). Seeking of information and professional support was assessed at a 12-month follow-up (time T3); response rates were: T1, 93.2%; T2, 85.1%; T3, 74.3%. Data were compared at baseline (T1) and at the 12-month follow-up (T3) with a prospective cohort of Danish people in fertility treatment.

RESULTS: There were no differences in infertility-related stress at base line between the two groups studied. We estimated the bi-directional changes in communication, e.g., changes from talking often to talking less frequently and vice versa. More intervention participants started to talk often with their partner about infertility and its treatment after the intervention compared to those who stopped to talk often. Women and men changed occurrence, frequency and content of communication with close other people. Among women marital benefit increased significantly. Infertility-related stress was not reduced significantly. Significantly more intervention participants than in the comparison group had contacted support groups, a psychologist and/or agencies for adoption at the 12-month follow-up.

CONCLUSION: The intervention resulted in important perceived improvement in the participants' competence to actively manage changes in marital communication and in communication in different social arenas.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: We recommend fertility clinics to develop and evaluate different interventions for those fertility couples who ask for more psychosocial support.

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