How couples appraise and communicate about their fertility problems : a study using interpretative phenomenological analysis
The focus of this study is the impact of fertility problems on couples as a unit. The meaning of fertility problems and how couples reported they communicated were the main areas of interest. A cross-sectional semi-structured interview study was employed. Ten couples were recruited via the Hull FVF unit and interviewed by the primary researcher. The interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Two super-ordinate themes emerged: Expectations of life -"What's it all about? " highlighted the lifecycle expectations people have; how when our expectations are not met one considers one's commitments and goals in life; and the impact of fertility treatment on all of these factors. Dealing with ongoing fertility problems - 'When it doesn't happen how we expect" presented the differing responses to ongoing infertility with feelings of resentment and acceptance emerging. Communication was revealed to play an important, yet complex, role in the experience of continued fertility problems. Women seemed to have a greater need for communicating, both with their partner and with others. The couples that reported effective communication were also more likely to report successfully managing any differences as well as satisfaction with their relationship. The themes were discussed in relation to previous theory and research; the stress and coping model was found to be helpful for guiding the research process, but did not seem sufficient to fully explain the depth of meaning the fertility problems had for the couples. Further research on couple communication is recommended. The main clinical implications of the study pointed to couples needing time out from treatment to process their experiences and for counselling to be offered more regularly at different points in time.