Infertility: Testing a helpseeking model

Lynn White, Julia McQuillan, Arthur L. Greil, David R. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This paper uses data from a study of 196 infertile women from the Midwestern US to examine a general theory of helpseeking behavior applied to infertility. All of these women report meeting the medical definition of infertility - 12 months or more of regular intercourse without conception - at some point in their lives. Only 35 percent of this sample of infertile women identified themselves as having had fertility problems and only 40 percent had sought medical treatment. Drawing on prior theories of helpseeking, we examine the effects of symptom salience, life course cues, attitudes, predisposing factors, and enabling conditions on helpseeking. We posit a model in which a cognitive dimension (perceived infertility) mediates between these predictors and medical helpseeking. Symptom salience (experienced infertility while actively trying to get pregnant), low parity, and poor subjective health are significantly related to perceived infertility, which is, in turn, significantly associated with helpseeking for infertility. Supporting the conclusion that the cognitive dimension of identifying oneself as infertile is critical to helpseeking, the relationship of symptom salience to helpseeking is partially mediated by perceived problems. Internal health locus of control is associated with lower odds of helpseeking but not to perceived infertility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1041
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Helpseeking
  • Infertility
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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