Involuntary childlessness has a significant impact, study shows
Harriet Vickers23 August 2010
Involuntary childlessness may have a bigger negative impact on peoples' lives than previously thought. A researcher studying couples who unsuccessfully underwent IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment say these people had a lower quality of life than couples with children.
Dr Marianne Johansson, who is also a midwife at the Institute of Health and Care Sciences, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden, interviewed men and women two years after they had gone through failed IVF. All the men had a diagnosis of severe male factor infertility.
At the time of the study, 40 per cent had biological children after further IVF treatment and 35 per cent had adopted children. Overall, the women reported childlessness as feeling like bereavement, whilst the men said they often felt frustrated by not knowing the cause of the infertility.
'We then compared this group with couples for whom the treatment had resulted in childbirth, plus a control group of parents without infertility problems who had children of the same age', says Dr Johansson. Two hundred couples in each of these three groups completed a questionnaire. Men and women were studied separately and compared.
As well as their experiences of childlessness, quality of life, health and wellbeing were also studied in the couples. The research concluded that those without children - both men and women - had a significantly poorer quality of life than those for whom IVF had been successful, and also compared to those in the control group.
'They perceived their infertility as central to their lives, and above all that quality of life amongst men without children was more negatively affected than had been previously reported in studies of involuntary childlessness', says Dr Johansson.
The research was published as Dr Johansson's PhD thesis.