How the experiences of Infertility and In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer (IVF -ET) are understood by South African women attending fertility clinics
Infertility is currently a serious problem that is escalating, not only in South Africa, but also worldwide. In Cape Town, a culturally diverse, urban community of approximately 1000 couples are referred to the Groote Schuur Hospital Infertility Clinic annually. Although infertility is primarily regarded as a medical condition, the treatments have emotional effects on infertile couples due to the recurring highs and lows that often accompany treatments. This study aimed to qualitatively explore and understand the emotional and psychological experiences of infertility and its treatments (specifically In Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer). Social constructionism is based on the premise that realities are not constructed in a vacuum but rather undergo a process whereby the subjective and inter-subjective experiences over time and through cultural processes come to be regarded as truths. These truths become internalised and function as lenses through which we see ourselves, compose and invent ourselves accordingly, making sense of what would otherwise have been chaotic and meaningless experiences. Additional aims were to examine women's experiences of infertility care whilst undergoing treatment and describe their experiences of coping with infertility and In Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer (IVF-ET). Semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews were conducted with 21 women presenting with primary infertility at a fertility clinic. This study utilised an ethnographic case study design. The results of the study suggested that women perceived themselves as not conforming to a dominant belief system that promotes motherhood as the most important role for women. The women described their 'failure' to fulfill socio-cultural expectations as emotionally turbulent. Some of the psychological responses to infertility included feelings of disappointment, shock, denial, devastation, anger, frustration, sadness, inadequacy, poor self-image and self-esteem. The women's personal accounts of their experiences of In Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer (IVF-ET) revealed that they found the treatment to be highly stressful, with emotional bouts of anxiety, nervousness, excitement and optimism. A psychological synopsis of infertility and IVF-ET is presented. This diagrammatic representation shows the intensity of the emotional rollercoaster that infertility and IVF-ET presents. The findings in this study suggest the need for the incorporation of presented. This diagrammatic representation shows the intensity of the emotional rollercoaster that psychosocial intervention into infertility management. Greater attention to the psychological and emotional repercussions of infertility treatment could lead to a more personalised approach which, in turn, would optimise patient satisfaction and also prepare couples for the demands of the program by informing them about better ways of coping.