This article describes a study that used a multi-system perspective to document the self-reported experience of women struggling with infertility and its treatment. A sub-sample of 56 participants from a parent study that examined posttraumatic growth in the context of infertility was used based on their answers to a single open-ended question about their infertility experience, which was included in the original questionnaire. Inclusion criteria were self-identified failure to achieve a pregnancy or carry it to term after at least one year of trying in the six years prior to the study and absence of a recent crisis unrelated to the infertility. Responses were content analyzed independently by a team of three researchers. The analysis yielded agreed upon 85 codes clustered in six themes: Challenges, perception of the experience, reactions, support, coping strategies and posttraumatic growth. The main overall finding points to the sense of being “trapped” in a web of multi-faceted, environmental and internal relationships between diverse systems involved in the infertility treatment. Implications for practice are identified and directions for future research suggested.

Author Biography

Roni Berger was born and raised in Israel, where she worked in direct practice and academia as well as supervisory and administrative positions. Dr. Berger holds a BSW, MSW and PhD from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Diploma in Psychotherapy from Tel Aviv Medical School. She serves as a Professor at Adelphi University and a consultant to organizations nationally and internationally. She has published and presented extensively about trauma and Posttraumatic Growth, immigration, step-families, group work and social work professional education.

Marilyn S. Paul is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at Adelphi University School of Social Work, and an independent clinical practitioner in New York City, Dr. Paul was formerly a perinatal social worker at North Shore University Hospital where she created a community-based program for pregnancy and infant loss. Dr. Paul’s research focuses on the experiences of infertility including third party reproduction within families, and is published in Human Reproduction, Family Process, Families, Systems and Health, and International Journal of Law, Policy and Family.

Lisa A. Henshaw, MSW, LCSW is a doctoral candidate at Adelphi University School of Social Work where she also serves as a research assistant, advisor, field instructor, tutor and adjunct professor. She has experience in clinical practice working with those struggling with mental health and substance abuse and their families. She also served in supervisory and administrative positions. The focus of her scholarly and practice interests is on issues related to trauma and misdiagnosis.