How to help women to help themselves during fertility treatment

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Introduction: Becoming a parent is a key personal life goal and people may assume that unprotected sexual intercourse will automatically lead to pregnancy as soon as they decide to conceive. For the 9% or so of couples that are infertile, however, such an assumption is challenged with monthly disappointment and the realisation that their futures will necessarily include treatment if they wish to have a child that is biologically their own. The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology guidelines ‘Routine psychosocial care in infertility and medically assisted reproduction – A guide for fertility staff on the
implementation of psychosocial care by healthcare professionals in infertility and medically assisted reproduction’ differentiates specialised infertility counselling and psychotherapy for the minority of patients with clinically significant emotional problems, from ‘routine’ psychosocial care. This presentation speaks to the latter form of psychosocial support.

Methods: Evidence from a number of studies about the effects of self-help interventions promoting coping strategies that enhance accommodation to stressful events is presented. These being the Positive Reappraisal Coping Intervention (PRCI); the Cognitive Coping and Relaxation Intervention (CCRI); emotional support from online groups, and increasing satisfaction with information-seeking in medical consultations.

Results: The evidence suggests that the PRCI has a number of benefits to the psychological wellbeing of women with fertility problems (e.g., sense of control, anxiety, coping), that the CCRI has positive effects on emotions, anxiety and treatment discontinuation, and that a structured planning form increases women’s satisfaction with medical consultations. However, although online support groups also show a number of benefits, there are disadvantages which need to be considered.

Conclusions: Effective coping is our first line of defence against mental health problems, and self-help interventions encourage the strategies of positive reappraisal, relaxation, information seeking and emotional social support seeking that have been shown to be appropriate and helpful during fertility treatment. Such self-help interventions are a valuable adjunct to the psychosocial support offered by medical professionals in face to face clinic sessions because patients can access them in their own time to meet their ongoing needs. These interventions could form the basis of a ‘self-help tool kit’ that medical professionals can guide patients towards as part of routine psychosocial care.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2017
EventThe British Psychological Society Division of Health Annual Conference 2017: Health Psychology: Theory and Practice - Holland House Hotel, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20178 Sept 2017


ConferenceThe British Psychological Society Division of Health Annual Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleDHP 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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