Failure after fertility treatment: regulation strategies when facing a blocked parenthood goal

Biological parenthood is a central life-goal for many couples that can become blocked when they experience infertility. Many couples who undergo fertility treatment will face failure and consequently have to decide whether to continue with treatment. The present study used the qualitative methodology of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to examine self-regulatory approaches that underlie decision-making about continuing treatment. One-time, one-on-one, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 individuals (eight heterosexual couples) after they had experienced at least one treatment failure and were considering whether to undergo another treatment. After treatment failure, individuals used several approaches to remain engaged with biological parenthood, including reframing treatment failure as a learning tool and emphasizing the importance of persistence in achieving success. The apparent decision to continue with treatment was considered non-negotiable and largely made by women in the partnership. Once the decision was made to pursue treatment, it was not discussed further. Given individuals’ willingness to engage in treatment, patients should be offered additional support to consider wide psychosocial implications of continuing treatment.