Emotional factors and the in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer process

  • Patricia P. Mahlstedt
  • Susan Macduff
  • Judith Bernstein
Special Contributions


In vitro fertilization is nearly always a treatment of a last resort. This fact, along with the treatment's multiplicity of procedures and intensity, place unique emotional demands on patients. The goal of this research was to describe both the acknowledged emotional state of patients at the time they began the in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) process and the emotional experience of the actual procedures themselves. The findings can be used to develop strategies for providing emotional support. Data were collected from self-administered questionnaires returned by 94 IVF-ET patients in three Houston programs during a 6-month period. At the time of the IVF procedure, 77% of the population reported that infertility was still a painful concern, not something with which they had learned to live. The loss of control, seen by most patients as infertility's most stressful dimension, left them vulnerable to the intense stresses of in vitro fertilization, less able to handle its multiple demands. Thus for many, the IVF-ET procedures were like an emotional roller coaster on which they experienced a wide range of feelings during a brief period of time. Not surprisingly, emotional strain was a major consideration influencing the decision whether or not to repeat IVF. Patients indicated specific services which the staff could provide to reduce the stress of the procedures.

Key words

emotional factors psychological treatment strategies/emotional preparation for IVF 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Frank D: Counseling the infertile couple. J Psychosoc Nurs 1984;22:17–23Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Slade P: Sexual attitudes and social role orientation in infertile women. J Psychosom Med 1981;25:183–186Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kraft A., Palombo J, Mitchell D, Dean C, Meyers S, Schmidt A: The psychological dimensions of infertility. Am J Orthopsychol 1980;50:618–628Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Given J, Jones G, McMillen D: A comparison of personality characteristics between in vitro fertilization patients and other infertile patients. J Vitro Fert Embryo Transfer 1985;2:49–54Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Greenfeld D, Mazure C, Haseltine F, DeCherney A: The role of the social worker in thein vitro fertilization program. Soc Work Health Care 1984;10:71–79Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Haseltine F, Mazure C, Del'Aune W, Greenfeld D, Loufer N, Tarlatzis B, Polan M, Jones E, Graebe R, Nero F, D'Lugi A, Fazio D, Masters J, DeCherney A: Psychological interviews in screening couples undergoingin vitro fertilization. Ann NY Acad Sci 1985;442:504–522PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Freeman W, Boxer A, Rickels K, Rureck R, Mastroianni L: Psychological evaluation and support in a program ofin vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Fertil Steril 1985;43:48–53PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kerlinger F: Foundations of Behavioral Research. New York, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973, p 414Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Keye W: Psychosocial responses to infertility. Clin Obstet Gynecol 1984;27:760–766PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mahlstedt P: The psychological component of infertility. Fertil Steril 1985;43:335–346PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    McCormick T: Out of control: One aspect of infertility. JOGN Nurs 1980;9:205–206PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia P. Mahlstedt
    • 1
  • Susan Macduff
    • 2
  • Judith Bernstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyBaylor College of MedicineHouston
  2. 2.Houston
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of New Mexico Medical SchoolAlbuquerque

Personalised recommendations