City Research Online

Negotiating meaning following infertility and disruption to life plans

McGregor-Johnson, Lindsay (2016). Negotiating meaning following infertility and disruption to life plans. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Infertility is seen as a distressing crisis for the couple and individual. There has tended to be too heavy a focus on the female’s experience and not enough attention given to couples who go through IVF together. The aim of this research was to investigate how heterosexual couples co-construct their experience of infertility and fertility treatment. It was of interest how they construct their experience, how they construct themselves and each other, how they talk about alternatives to fertility treatment ie. adoption and childlessness, and how they each manage their own personal stake in the conversation.

Both members of the couple were interviewed together to allow for co-construction. A discourse analysis was conducted from a social-constructionist epistemological position. Three heterosexual couples were recruited and data was gathered through semi-structured interviews. Dominant discourses of IVF as struggle and sacrifice, the pain of infertility and what is lost by not having their own biological children were identified. This helped to build a picture of the couples as deserving parents but also led to constructions of unfairness and resentment. Childless people were characterised as materialistic and lacking meaning in life. The analysis looked at how the couple was constructed during the interview with the dominant discourse being the ‘in it together’ discourse. This was troubled by some topics like donor gametes, who the infertile one in the couple was, and different reactions to IVF. The current research not only adds to the literature on infertility and IVF but also to how couples work together to co-construct experience and meaning. Implications, limitations and areas for future research are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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