Examining Infertility as a Stigmatizing Condition to Understand Negative Psychological Outcomes of Infertility

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that approximately 6.7 million or 10.9% of women in the United States, between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty getting or remaining pregnant and of these women 6% are considered infertile (CDC, 2012). Infertility is defined as twelve months of regular, 2015 Appalachian Student Research Forum Page 53 unprotected intercourse yielding no pregnancy. Research suggests the experience of infertility has been associated with negative psychological outcomes, such as depression and anxiety. Even more problematic is that infertility can persist for an extended period of time and have long-lasting effects on psychological distress in those who remain unable to have children. Given the negative psychological outcomes experienced by those struggling with infertility, uncovering why and how these outcomes evolve for women with infertility may simultaneously reveal points of intervention to improve outcomes. The present study is premised on the idea that examining infertility in the context of stigma may provide an explanation for the increased psychological distress reported by women experiencing infertility. In the present study, we examined stigma as a framework for understanding the negative psychological outcomes for women who experience infertility. More specifically, we examined the relationship between stigma (public and internalized stigma) and psychological distress and the mediational role of self-esteem and partner satisfaction. The sample consisted of women experiencing infertility (N > 100) who completed an online survey titled “Survey on Women’s Experience with Infertility”. The average woman in the study was 33 years of age (M = 32.8, SD = 6.74), reported being married (70%), and was Caucasian/White (86.6%) and college educated. On average, women in the study had been trying to conceive for almost three years (M= 32.71 months, SD = 12.87). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to assess the hypothesized relationships between public stigma, internalized stigma, self-esteem, partner satisfaction, and psychological distress. Overall the mediational model was supported, which suggests the relationship between public stigma and psychological distress may be partly explained by internalized stigma, selfesteem, and partner satisfaction. The results provide initial support for a stigma framework as an explanation for the negative psychological outcomes experienced by women struggling with infertility.


Johnson City, TN

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