One in six Canadian women will struggle with infertility during their reproductive lives – half of these women will report that infertility is the most upsetting experience of their lives and 30-40% will develop clinical depression or anxiety as a result. Furthermore, the few treatments that are available have been shown to be largely ineffective in reducing infertility distress, depressive symptoms, and marital functioning. Therefore, there is a need for a new treatment that better addresses the unique challenges that women face when struggling with infertility.
Thanks to funding by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and Saskatchewan Center for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR), our research has identified the unique psychological challenges that individuals face as they struggle to conceive. With a panel of patient advocates, we developed a tailored psychological intervention that is more effective at reducing infertility-related distress than what is currently available.
The Coping with Infertility Program
The Coping with Infertility Program was developed by our lab in close collaboration with a panel of women who have personal experiences with infertility. This 6-week self-help program was designed to help individuals cope with the stresses of infertility by targeting the unique challenges that may arise when struggling to conceive. It includes weekly 10-minute videos that introduce a new concept or focus related to infertility. A weekly activity is also assigned, such as practicing new ways of thinking, introducing new activities into your day, or talking to a loved one about how they can best support you. In a recent pilot study, this program was found to reduce depression and anxiety while improving emotional wellbeing in women struggling with infertility.
We recently piloted this program in 20 women with infertility and looked at how their mental health changed from the start to the end of the program. These women found the program to be helpful and rated the modules an average of 8/10. They also experienced a 54% reduction in anxiety symptoms and a 51% drop in depressive symptoms from the start to the end of the program. Women who were more distressed noticed the greatest benefit.
Thanks to grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), we will soon be conducting a larger trial to test the effectiveness of this program.
You can view the program and other resources at our website letstalkinfertility.org by clicking the buttons below.