Impact of infertility on quality of life, marital adjustment, and sexual function

Urology. 2004 Jan;63(1):126-30. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2003.09.015.


Objectives: To evaluate the hypothesis that infertility may result in a decrease in quality of life and an increase in marital discord and sexual dysfunction. The burden of infertility is physical, psychological, emotional, and financial.

Methods: Couples seeking treatment for infertility were asked to complete standardized validated questionnaires assessing quality of life (Quality of Well-Being Scale-Self Administered, version 1.04), marital adjustment (Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test), and sexual function (Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women and International Index of Erectile Function for men). Couples seeking elective sterilization served as the control subjects.

Results: Eighteen infertile couples and 12 couples seeking elective sterilization participated in the study. The mean age, years together, and household income were comparable. Infertile couples had made a mean of 14.5 office visits for infertility, and 83% of couples reported feeling societal pressures to conceive. The Marital Adjustment Test scores for the women of the infertile couples were significantly lower than the scores of the controls (P = 0.01); however no difference was noted in the men. A trend toward lower quality-of-life scores was noted in women (P = 0.09) but not in the men of infertile couples. No statistically significant impact on sexual functioning in women was noted; however, the men in the infertile couples had lower total International Index of Erectile Function scores (P = 0.05) and intercourse satisfaction scores (P = 0.03).

Conclusions: Women in infertile couples reported poor marital adjustment and quality of life compared with controls. Men may experience less intercourse satisfaction, perhaps because of the psychological pressure to try to conceive or because of the forced timing of intercourse around the woman's ovulatory cycle.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Infertility / complications
  • Infertility / psychology*
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Parity
  • Penile Erection
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / complications
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology
  • Sterilization, Reproductive / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires