Objective: To identify gender differences in coping responses and the association between coping and psychological distress in couples undergoing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Methods: All men and women (n = 52) who were offered psychological counselling prior to beginning IVF treatment between October 2003 and May 2004 were invited to complete questionnaires on their coping responses, self-reported distress and socio-demographic data. One female declined.
Results: Of the 51 participants, 52% had completed secondary education, 44% tertiary education, and 37% were 38 years or older; 42% of the couples were trying for more than seven years to have a child. Gender differences in coping included more women than men keeping others from knowing their pain (p < 0.01) and more women ruminating about what they did wrong to cause the infertility (p < 0.01). These strategies were also associated with reports of heightened distress (p < 0.05). Talking to others to obtain information was associated with less negative feelings. Coping skills that were commonly used by both genders included seeking medical advice and engaging in wishful thinking.
Conclusion: Women coping with infertility may be at risk for self-depreciation and isolation because of their choice of coping strategies and the meaning they ascribe to the infertility. As a result, they are likely to experience more heightened distress than men who are also infertile. Counselling that is specific to gender-needs is indicated.