Human reproduction (Oxford, England) vol:25 issue:6 pages:1471-1480
BACKGROUND The distress that couples experience in IVF treatment is well-documented though research exploring factors that might contribute to the distress is scarce and the role of infertility-specific versus more general psychological characteristics in predicting psychological distress remains unexplored. This exploratory study aimed to describe, explore and test a self-constructed conceptual framework designed to understand the relative impact of infertility-specific and general psychological characteristics, in predicting psychological distress. METHODS Validated self-report questionnaires that measured the concepts of the encompassing framework (personality characteristics self-criticism and dependency, attachment in the partner relationship, child wish, coping, intrusiveness, infertility-related stress and general psychological distress) were completed by 106 women and 102 men before starting the first IVF/ICSI treatment at a university hospital-based fertility centre. Data were analysed by hierarchical multivariate linear regression analysis and path analysis. RESULTS The overall conceptual psychological framework explained 55% of the variance in psychological distress. The strongest predictors of psychological distress were general psychological characteristics: passive and active coping, self-criticism and dependency and intrusiveness. A path analysis confirmed the framework and highlighted the mediating role of coping and intrusiveness. In the final analysis, none of the infertility-specific variables significantly predicted psychological distress. CONCLUSIONS The current study of patients starting IVF-treatment demonstrated that general psychological characteristics, specifically active and passive coping, personality characteristics, dependency and self-criticism and intrusiveness, are more important in predicting the variability in psychological distress than infertility-specific concerns. The results raise important questions for infertility counselling. However, the cross-sectional nature of the study only allows for insight into baseline measurement (before starting the first IVF-treatment) and therefore this area of research could benefit from additional longitudinal studies.