Gratitude in infertility: a cross-sectional examination of dispositional gratitude in coping with infertility-related stress in women undergoing IVF

Bobo H P Lau, Sylvia H Yao, Michelle Y J Tam, Cecilia L W Chan, Ernest H Y Ng, Celia H Y Chan
Human Reproduction Open 2019, 2019 (3): hoz012

STUDY QUESTION: Do sense of meaning and acceptance mediate the relationships between gratitude and infertility-related stress among women undergoing IVF?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Among women undergoing IVF, the negative relationships between gratitude and infertility-related stress are explained by a general sense of meaningfulness and acceptance of life.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Infertility experts increasingly call for a re-balancing of the deficit-based view of psychosocial adjustment in IVF, which has been heavily dominated by studies of risk factors and psychological distress. Attention has been given to strength-based perspectives that emphasize character strengths and personal growth. Gratitude has been found to be a potent protective factor in coping with life stressors; however, its salutary effects and protective processes for infertile women undergoing IVF are yet to be explored.

STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: This study utilized baseline data of a randomized controlled trial for mind-body interventions with 357 Hong Kong Chinese women. Data collection was conducted between January 2015 and December 2017.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTINGS METHODS: Eligible women were approached by a research assistant immediately after their first medical consultation at an ART centre of a major university-affiliated hospital. Participants were asked to complete a battery of questionnaires, including the Gratitude Questionnaire-6, the Fertility Problem Inventory, and the Holistic Well-Being Scale. Mediation analyses were conducted with bootstrapped samples.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Of the 494 women who were approached, 357 (72.3%) provided informed consent and participated in the study. Results show that gratitude was negatively associated with all infertility-related stress domains ( r s = -0.19 to -0.36), and these relationships are mediated by acceptance and loss of sense of meaning. Further, the link between gratitude and relationship concerns is mediated by loss of sense of meaning in women with a definable cause of infertility (95% CI = [-0.31, -0.08]), but by acceptance among those with unexplained infertility (95% CI = [-0.33, -0.01]).

LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: The cross-sectional nature of the study precluded inferences of causality. Self-selection and self-report biases could be present. Our findings may not be readily generalizable to women who do not intend to undergo psychosocial intervention for their infertility or ART.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our findings support the salutary effects of gratitude in coping with IVF and highlight the role of unexplained infertility in the coping process. These findings offer preliminary support to the use of psychosocial interventions in promoting gratitude, acceptance, and meaning reconstruction for reducing infertility-related stress in women undergoing IVF.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: This study was funded by the Hong Kong University Grant Council-General Research Fund (HKU27400414). All authors declare no competing interests.



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