Insight into unexplained infertility: How do women make sense of their experience of unexplained infertility followed by spontaneous conception
Date of Award
Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)
Schools and Centres
Arts & Sciences
Doctor Suzanne Jenkins
Doctor Caroline Bulsara
The causes of infertility are diverse and broadly fall under four categories: male, female, combined or unexplained (Wynter et al., 2013, p. 285). Treating infertility is usually associated with an often medically invasive procedure and fertility clinics have been expanding globally in the last thirty years (Krisak, 2013). Furthermore, medical research and treatment for this condition have allowed for considerable progress to be made, allowing a greater number of couples to have children despite their difficulty or inability to conceive at some time in their life (Bushnik, Cook, Hughes, & Tough, 2012). The focus of this study will be the psychosocio- emotional aspects of unexplained infertility.
A qualitative approach was chosen to undertake this research, and the methodology best suited for this research was an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). IPA is the preferred methodology when studying a lived experience, especially when the research topic is emotional, such as infertility (Smith & Osborn, 2015). In this study, four women participants participated in an in-depth face to face interview during which they related their experience of unexplained infertility followed by spontaneous conception. All were encouraged to reflect on their experience by examining all aspects of that period in their lives. Physical health was explored, as well as work and family environment, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Information from diverse literature, as well as interviews with the participants for this research, describe the journey of infertility and treatment as emotionally difficult, and often accompanied by strong feelings such as fear, grief, anxiety or trauma. All participants described their In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) journey as a magnification of those already difficult feelings.
Although all participants noted that their reproductive health at the time was focussed solely on physical or medical aspects of their infertility, nonetheless all sought alternative therapies such as acupuncture or Chinese medicine too. In addition, they engaged in well-being 6 practices such as meditation, with the intention to increase their well-being or their chance of conception success. There was unanimity amongst participants that taking a holistic approach to the issue they were facing and taking a gentle approach towards the treatment or towards themselves allowed a path to pregnancy.
The results of the study revealed a shift in participant’s situations which created circumstances where spontaneous conception could occur after infertility. These shifts were in the domain of emotional well-being, attitude towards conception and attitude towards treatment. The shift from negative to positive situation were all accompanied with a ritual that symbolically confirmed the change of mindset.
These results offer an insight into the role well-being played in the ability to conceive a child for all participants. They present an opportunity for further research in this field, to develop deeper understanding into unexplained infertility and integrate the findings in a new medico-psychotherapeutic approach integrating physical and emotional well-being.
Michea, F. (2018). Insight into unexplained infertility: How do women make sense of their experience of unexplained infertility followed by spontaneous conception (Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)). University of Notre Dame Australia. https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/theses/231