Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hum Reprod. 26(8): 2101-2112


© The Author 2011.


BACKGROUND We examine variation in fertility-specific distress (FSD) and general distress according to different experiences of infertility among 1027 US women who have experienced infertility within the previous 10 years.

METHODS General distress was measured by a short form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression. Multiple regression analysis was conducted on self-report data (based on a telephone interview) from a probability-based sample of US women aged 25–45 years. We compare women with infertility who have had a prior pregnancy (secondary infertility, n = 628) to women with infertility with no prior pregnancies (primary infertility, n = 399). We further distinguish between women with infertility who were actually ‘trying’ to become pregnant (the infertile with intent) with those who met the medical definition of infertile but did not describe themselves as trying to become pregnant (infertile without intent).

RESULTS Both types of infertility (primary versus secondary) (β = 0.31*) and intentionality (infertile with and without intent) (β = 0.08*) are associated with FSD. These associations persist when we control for resource and demographic variables, life course variables, social support and social pressure variables. General distress does not vary by infertility type or intentionality.

CONCLUSIONS Results reveal variation in women's recalled experiences of infertility and that FSD is more sensitive to effects of different experiences than general distress. Women with primary infertility who were explicitly trying to become pregnant at the time of the infertility episode stand out as a particularly distressed group. Caregivers should be aware that the emotional needs of women with primary infertility may differ from those with secondary infertility.