Objective: To determine gender similarities and differences in perceptions of infertility and anticipated treatment stress in couples enrolling for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
Design: Both partners were evaluated at enrollment of IVF treatment. The evaluation was part of the screening procedure.
Setting: The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at a teaching hospital.
Patients, participants: Two hundred consecutive couples who entered an IVF treatment program.
Main outcome measures: Self-report questionnaire included items on the duration of infertility, degree of social support, effect of infertility on sexual relationship, expected likelihood of achieving pregnancy, anticipation of stress during treatment, and a self-rating scale of emotional reactions to infertility.
Results: The women anticipated more stress in IVF treatment but also rated greater degree of social support than the men. Both partners overestimated their chances of a successful treatment outcome. Factor analysis of the Infertility Scale produced three factors that were similar for both sexes. The first factor represented the desire to have a child as a major focus of life with inadequacy of the male role, social functioning and work efficiency, and pressure to have a child following.
Conclusions: Women reported more stress, but the factors affecting stress of infertility were very similar for both partners. The intense focus on having a child was the predominant factor in anticipated stress of IVF treatment for both males and females.