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Discussing the possibility of fertility treatment being unsuccessful as part of routine care offered at clinics: patients’ experiences, willingness, and preferences

Sousa-Leite, M. ORCID:, Costa, R., Figueiredo, B. and Gameiro, S. ORCID: 2023. Discussing the possibility of fertility treatment being unsuccessful as part of routine care offered at clinics: patients’ experiences, willingness, and preferences. Human Reproduction 38 (7) , pp. 1332-1344. 10.1093/humrep/dead096

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STUDY QUESTION: Are patients willing to discuss the possibility of treatment being unsuccessful as part of routine care offered at clinics, and what are the factors associated with this willingness? SUMMARY ANSWER: Nine in every 10 patients are willing to discuss this possibility as part of routine care, with willingness being associated with higher perceived benefits, lower barriers, and stronger positive attitudes towards it. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Fifty-eight percent of patients who complete up to three cycles of IVF/ICSI in the UK do not achieve a live birth. Offering psychosocial care for unsuccessful fertility treatment (PCUFT), defined as assistance and guidance on the implications of treatment being unsuccessful, could reduce the psychosocial distress patients experience when it happens, and promote positive adjustment to this loss. Research shows 56% of patients are willing to plan for an unsuccessful cycle, but little is known about their willingness and preferences towards discussing the possibility of definitive unsuccessful treatment. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION The study was of cross-sectional design, comprising a theoretically driven and patient-centred bilingual (English, Portuguese) mixed-methods online survey. The survey was disseminated via social media (April 2021–January 2022). Eligibility criteria included being aged 18 or older, waiting to or undergoing an IVF/ICSI cycle, or having completed a cycle within the previous 6 months without achieving a pregnancy. Out of 651 people accessing the survey, 451 (69.3%) consented to participate. From these, 100 did not complete 50% of the survey questions, nine did not report on the primary outcome variable (willingness), and 342 completed the survey (completion rate 75.8%, 338 women). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: The survey was informed by the Health Belief Model (HBM) and Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). Quantitative questions covered sociodemographic characteristics and treatment history. Quantitative and qualitative questions gathered data on past experiences, willingness, and preferences (with whom, what, how and when) to receive PCUFT, as well as theory-informed factors hypothesized to be associated with patients’ willingness to receive it. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used on quantitative data about PCUFT experiences, willingness, and preferences, and thematic analysis was applied to textual data. Two logistic regressions were used to investigate the factors associated with patients’ willingness. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Participants were, on average, 36 years old and most resided in Portugal (59.9%) and the UK (38.0%). The majority (97.1%) were in a relationship for around 10 years, and 86.3% were childless. Participants were undergoing treatment for, on average, 2 years [SD = 2.11, range: 0–12 years], with most (71.8%) having completed at least one IVF/ICSI cycle in the past, almost all (93.5%) without success. Around one-third (34.9%) reported having received PCUFT. Thematic analysis showed participants received it mainly from their consultant. The main topic discussed was patients’ low prognosis, with the emphasis being put on achieving a positive outcome. Almost all participants (93.3%) would like to receive PCUFT. Reported preferences indicated that 78.6% wanted to receive it from a psychologist/psychiatrist/counsellor, mostly in case of a bad prognosis (79.4%), emotional distress (73.5%), or difficulties in accepting the possibility of treatment being unsuccessful (71.2%). The preferred time to receive PCUFT was before initiating the first cycle (73.3%), while the preferred format was in an individual (mean = 6.37, SD = 1.17; in 1–7 scale) or couple (mean = 6.34, SD = 1.24; in 1–7 scale) session. Thematic analysis showed participants would like PCUFT to provide an overview of treatment and all possible outcomes tailored to each patient’s circumstances and to encompass psychosocial support, mainly focused on coping strategies to process loss and sustain hope towards the future. Willingness to receive PCUFT was associated with higher perceived benefit of building psychosocial resources and coping strategies (odds ratios (ORs) 3.40, 95% CI 1.23–9.38), lower perceived barrier of triggering negative emotions (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–0.98), and stronger positive attitudes about PCUFT being beneficial and useful (OR 3.32, 95% CI 2.12–5.20).

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0268-1161
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 May 2023
Date of Acceptance: 28 April 2023
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2023 16:22

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