Perceived Infertility Stigma Among Women

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Infertility affects millions of women in the United States and across the globe. Research has identified negative psychological outcomes of infertility (depressive and anxiety symptoms). Many women (and men) report infertility as the most upsetting event in their lives. Regardless of which partner is infertile, women report questioning their self worth, experience guilt, and feel responsible. Specific reasons why these negative outcomes occur are not well understood. The goals of this study were to examine women’s perceived infertility stigma and explore its role in psychological functioning. Perceived stigma can include shame, embarrassment, or fear of rejection related to holding a stigmatizing attribute. Infertility may be stigmatizing for women given the majority are socialized to want children, and motherhood still is considered women’s primary social role. Feeling of inadequacy or inferiority may result when women perceive themselves as not measuring up to societal expectations or to their own expectations as women. The present study, the first to examine infertility stigma using direct, quantitative methods, included development of a perceived infertility measure, and a pilot test of the measure to examine its relation to psychosocial outcomes. Nine women with infertility from Appalachia were interviewed in-depth. Fully recorded and transcribed interviews were coded for stigma-related content; scale items were developed from this content. The initial 87 items were pilot tested on a sample of women with infertility. Results showed that women report a variety of experiences including perceiving themselves as inferior or less of a woman, trying to keep infertility a secret from others, and being treated differently including in a patronizing way. Women also reported fearing rejection from others including their partners. Details of scale development and preliminary results of pilot testing, including initial validation of the new scale, will be discussed.


New Orleans, LA

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