The experience of infertility: a review of recent literature

Sociol Health Illn. 2010 Jan;32(1):140-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2009.01213.x. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


About 10 years ago Greil published a review and critique of the literature on the socio-psychological impact of infertility. He found at the time that most scholars treated infertility as a medical condition with psychological consequences rather than as a socially constructed reality. This article examines research published since the last review. More studies now place infertility within larger social contexts and social scientific frameworks although clinical emphases persist. Methodological problems remain but important improvements are also evident. We identify two vigorous research traditions in the social scientific study of infertility. One tradition uses primarily quantitative techniques to study clinic patients in order to improve service delivery and to assess the need for psychological counselling. The other tradition uses primarily qualitative research to capture the experiences of infertile people in a sociocultural context. We conclude that more attention is now being paid to the ways in which the experience of infertility is shaped by social context. We call for continued progress in the development of a distinctly sociological approach to infertility and for the continued integration of the two research traditions identified here.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Culture
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / psychology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy
  • Infertility, Male / psychology*
  • Infertility, Male / therapy
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prejudice
  • Stress, Psychological*