The Coping with Infertility Program: Pilot Study Findings
New Mental Health Program Aimed at Helping Those Struggling with Infertility
By Jennifer Gordon, PhD, R.D. Psych
Infertility affects 1 in 6 individuals in North America and causes a an enormous amount of emotional pain and distress. In fact, up to 30% of those experiencing infertility report clinical levels of depression or anxiety. However, unfortunately, programs aimed at improving mental health among those struggling with infertility have so far been shown to have limited benefits. With this in mind, my team at the University of Regina’s Women’s Mental Health Research Unit and I have spent the last three years developing a new mental health program for infertility. Along with a panel of individuals who have personal experience with infertility, we created the Coping with Infertility Program, consisting of seven 10-minute videos, each focused on a different emotional challenge related to infertility. For example, one module addresses feelings of hopelessness and guilt, another on coping with grief and loss, while another focuses on how you and your partner can best support each other through your infertility journey. The idea is that you watch one video per week and spend the rest of that week implementing what you learned into your daily life.
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. Here’s what we found: first, the women who tried our program found it to be helpful. Specifically, when asked to rate how helpful each module was on a scale from 0 to 10, they rated the modules an average of 8/10. Second, they experienced a 54% reduction in anxiety symptoms and a 51% drop in depressive symptoms from the start to the end of the program. And women who were the most distressed at the start of the program experienced an even bigger drop in symptoms. Finally, participants had lots of good things to say about the program. One participant reported: “I’m going through an embryo transfer and I found this week’s module helped me work through some very negative thoughts. I think what I’ve learned so far really came in handy and helped!” Another, when referring to the module on seeking social support, said “I liked this module the best so far. I’ve had a lot of support from my family and my husband but they always ask what I need from them and I didn’t really know what to ask or say until I did this week’s module.”
We're excited by these results! It seems that just 10 minutes each week can have huge benefits for those struggling with the stress of infertility. We are currently recruiting participants for a large clinical trial studying the effectiveness of this program. Find out more here.