Communication and coping as predictors of fertility problem stress: cohort study of 816 participants who did not achieve a delivery after 12 months of fertility treatment

L Schmidt, B E Holstein, U Christensen, J Boivin
Human Reproduction 2005, 20 (11): 3248-56

BACKGROUND: We investigated coping strategies and communication strategies as predictors of fertility problem stress 12 months after start of fertility treatment.

METHODS: We used a prospective, longitudinal cohort design including 2250 people beginning fertility treatment with a 12-month follow-up. Data were based on self-administered questionnaires measuring communication with partner and with other people, coping strategies: active-avoidance coping, active-confronting coping, passive-avoidance coping, meaning-based coping, and fertility problem stress. The study population included those participants (n = 816, men and women) who had not achieved pregnancy by assisted reproduction or delivery at follow-up.

RESULTS: Among both men and women, difficulties in partner communication predicted high fertility problem stress (odds ratio for women, 3.47, 95% confidence interval 2.09-5.76; odds ratio for men, 3.69, 95% confidence interval 2.09-6.43). Active-avoidance coping (e.g. avoiding being with pregnant women or children, turning to work to take their mind off things) was a significant predictor of high fertility problem stress. Among men, high use of active-confronting coping (e.g. letting feelings out, asking other people for advice, seeking social support) predicted low fertility problem stress in the marital domain (odds ratio 0.53, 95% confidence interval 0.28-1.00). Among women, medium or high use of meaning-based coping significantly predicted low fertility problem stress in the personal and marital domain.

CONCLUSION: The study provides information about where to intervene with fertility patients in order to reduce their stress after medically unsuccessful treatment.

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