'How did you cope with such concerns ?' : Insights from a monitored online infertility peer support forum

The Research Question posed was ‘What coping strategies do fertility patients and trained peer supporters discuss in an online infertility peer support forum?’ A thematic analysis was used to examine 244 online posts from a sample of 39 users (37 women and two men) for themes in coping with fertility-related stressors. Data were collected from Connect, a monitored online discussion forum with trained peer supporters. Connect users ranged from 27 to 44 years of age (mean = 34.38) and 33 (84.6%) were nulliparous at the time of the study. A variety of cognitive-reappraisal and practical management coping strategies was discussed across four themes: (i) balancing interpersonal relationships; (ii) partner support; (iii) uncertainty and lack of control; and (iv) positivity and negativity. Experiences of uncertainty and lack of control related to time and schedule, outcomes and waiting for physical symptoms, and the clinic. Connect users commonly discussed the helpfulness of coping strategies. Connect users actively requested experiential information about ways of coping from other patients and peer supporters, highlighting the importance of lived experience to those currently in treatment. Findings support conceptualizations of infertility coping as a process that is unique to the infertility treatment context and that may change throughout a patient’s treatment. Trained peer supporters may benefit fertility patients by normalizing, reappraising, and providing practical strategies to ameliorate difficult infertility-related challenges.

Human Fertility