Do the quality of life (QoL) and the risk factors for emotional problems during and after treatment of infertile women differ from their partners?
Women have lower levels of fertility-related QoL, and more and differing risk factors for emotional problems during and after treatment than their partners. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY?: The psychological impact of infertility in patients negatively affects their QoL and is also related to increased discontinuation of treatment. Moreover, psychological factors might positively affect pregnancy rates. However, it is still unclear if differences in QoL and emotional status exist between infertile women and their partners. So far, research mainly focused on generic instruments to measure patients' QoL in the area of fertility care.
A cross-sectional study of infertile couples within 32 Dutch fertility clinics.
We included infertile women and their partners (both heterosexual and lesbian couples) under any treatment and at any stage of treatment in one of the 32 participating clinics. Per clinic, 25-75 patients were randomly selected depending on clinic size. In total, 1620 women and their partners were invited separately to complete the FertiQoL and SCREENIVF questionnaires to measure their level of QoL and risk factors for emotional problems during and after treatment, respectively.
A total of 946 women (response rate 58%) and 670 partners (response rate 41%) completed the questionnaire set. As 250 women and 150 partners were already pregnant, questionnaires from 696 women and 520 partners could be analysed. Women scored significantly lower on the FertiQoL total scores [B = -6.31; 95% confidence interval (CI) = -7.63 to 4.98] and three of the FertiQoL subscales (Emotional, Mind-Body and Social) than their partners, indicating lower QoL. Scores on the SCREENIVF questionnaire were significantly higher for women (B = 0.22; 95% CI = 0.06-0.38), indicating that women are more at risk for developing emotional problems (and these factors differed from those of their partners) during and after fertility treatment than their partners.
Although the number of participants is high (n = 1216), the relatively low response rate, especially for partners (41%), may have influenced the results through selection bias. An analysis of non-responders could not be performed. The FertiQoL and SCREENIVF questionnaires, which have been validated only in women starting a first IVF cycle, should also be validated for studying partners. In addition, the SCREENIVF questionnaire has been validated in Dutch women only and further research in an international setting is also required.
Our study results represent the Dutch infertile population as more than one-third of all Dutch clinics participated in the study. As the FertiQoL questionnaire is an internationally validated questionnaire already, these results can be put in a more broader and international perspective.
This work was supported by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), The Netherlands. There are no competing interests.