Web-based treatment for infertility-related psychological distress
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Infertility has been associated with stigma and negative psychosocial functioning. However, only a small proportion of this population actually receives care. Fertility patients predominantly use the Internet for information gathering, social support, and assistance with decision-making; yet, available web resources are unreliable sources of mental health care. Web-based alternatives also have the potential to assist with intervention access difficulties and may be of significant lower cost. This study evaluated the efficacy of a web-based approach to providing a cognitive behavioral intervention with 31 infertile women seeking medical reproductive technologies. Following randomized assignment, participants using the web-based intervention were compared with those in a wait-list control condition on general and infertility-related psychological stress measures. Results were mixed regarding intervention efficacy. Significant declines in general stress were evidenced in the experimental group compared with a wait-list control group. However, website access did not result in statistically significant improvements on a measure of infertility-specific stress. These findings add to the literature on psychological interventions for women experiencing fertility problems. Moreover, despite the widespread use of the Internet by this population, the present study is one of the first to investigate the usefulness of the Internet to attenuate stress in this population. Preliminary results suggest general stress may be significantly reduced in infertile women using an online cognitive behavioral approach.