A review of psychosocial interventions in infertility

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Dec;57(12):2325-41. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00138-2.


Counselling has been strongly recommended by numerous governmental, medical and community associations to help infertile people. The purpose of this review was to determine whether psychosocial interventions improved well-being and pregnancy rates, and to identify the kinds of interventions that were most effective. A systematic search identified all published and unpublished papers in any language and any source that (1) described a psychosocial intervention and (2) evaluated its effect on at least one outcome measure in an infertile population. A total of 380 studies met the first criteria but only 6.6% (n=25) of these were independent evaluation studies. Analysis of these studies showed that psychosocial interventions were more effective in reducing negative affect than in changing interpersonal functioning (e.g., marital and social functioning). Pregnancy rates were unlikely to be affected by psychosocial interventions. It was also found that group interventions which had emphasised education and skills training (e.g., relaxation training) were significantly more effective in producing positive change across a range of outcomes than counselling interventions which emphasised emotional expression and support and/or discussion about thoughts and feelings related to infertility. Men and women were found to benefit equally from psychosocial interventions. Directions for future research on the evaluation of psychosocial interventions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Counseling / methods*
  • Counseling / standards
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility / psychology*
  • Infertility / therapy*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Medicine / methods*
  • Reproductive Medicine / standards
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy