Is infertility resolution associated with a change in women's well-being?

Karina M. Shreffler, Arthur L. Greil, Stacy M. Tiemeyer, Julia McQuillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION: Is giving birth associated with improved subjective well-being among involuntarily childless women? SUMMARY ANSWER: Resolution of infertility is associated with increased life satisfaction and self-esteem, but not with a decrease in depressive symptoms. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Cross-sectional data and studies of treatment-seekers show that infertility is associated with lower subjective well-being. Childless women with infertility tend to report lower subjective well-being than women who experience secondary infertility, but a prospective study using a random sample of involuntarily childless women over time has not previously been conducted. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: The sample for the current study includes all women without children who met medical criteria for infertility or perceived a fertility problem (N = 283) at baseline and who were interviewed in both waves (3 years apart) of the National Survey of Fertility Barriers (NSFB), in a random-digit dialing telephone survey. It is therefore possible to explore here whether there are differences in the association of infertility resolution and subjective well-being among women who do and do not perceive themselves as having a fertility problem. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Depressive symptoms (as measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale), self-esteem (as measured by a modified version of the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale) and life satisfaction (as measured by a modified version of the Satisfaction with Life Scale) were assessed for all 283 participants at both waves. For all three variables, change scores of 47 involuntarily childless women who resolved their infertility through a live birth were compared to the scores for the 236 women who remained childless. A number of variables shown to be associated with subjective well-being among infertile women were included as controls. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: No relationship between infertility resolution and change in depressive symptoms was observed (b =-0.04; P > 0.05). Involuntarily childless women who resolved their infertility improved in self-esteem (b = 0.74; P < 0.01) and life satisfaction (b = 1.06; P < 0.01). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Women were measured at only two time points. Only 47 women had a live birth between waves. While it is common practice to make causal interpretations based on panel data, such interpretations should be made with caution. In addition, the NSFB was conducted in the USA where medical expenditures are high and most fertility treatment expenses are not covered by insurance. Thus it may not be possible to generalize the findings to other modern industrialized societies. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Knowing that resolution of infertility is associated with improved subjective well-being is important for infertile couples and infertility professionals alike. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This research was supported in part by NICHD grant R01-HD044144 and NIGMS grant P20-GM109097 from the National Institutes of Health. The authors have no competing interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-616
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020


  • National Survey of Fertility Barriers
  • birth
  • depressive symptoms
  • infertility
  • life satisfaction
  • self-esteem
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Is infertility resolution associated with a change in women's well-being?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this