Coping Strategies of Couples Undergoing Medically Assisted Reproduction
Many couples require medical help to have children, which is known as medically assisted reproduction, or MAR. MAR can affect couples’ sexual health and relationships. For example, they may feel pressure to have sex during fertile times, increasing the pressure to perform and reducing overall enjoyment.
Working together to manage stress can help, but little is known about how sexual beliefs influence couples’ coping strategies during the process of seeking medical help to have a baby. Therefore, a new study looked at how couples’ beliefs about their sexual challenges affect their ability to cope together while trying to start a family using medical assistance over one year.
For the study, the researchers used the Vulnerability Stress-Adaptation model. This model suggests that certain beliefs about one’s sex life, like the idea that it can improve (sexual growth) or that it indicates (in)compatibility (sexual destiny), can influence how couples cope with stress.
People with positive sexual growth beliefs tend to cope better, while those with negative sexual destiny beliefs may cope negatively. During times of stress such as undergoing MAR, it is important to understand how these beliefs change over time and how they affect couples’ ability to cope.
Couples seeking MAR from an assisted reproductive therapies clinic were included in this study. To be eligible to participate, both partners had to be 18 years or older, speak English or French, and live in North America. Couples with severe mental health issues were excluded.
Overall, 219 couples were included in the sample, primarily married couples or those in common-law partnerships. After providing information about their demographics, the couples completed questionnaires about their sexual growth and destiny beliefs (the Implicit Theories of Sexuality Scale–Short Form) and their dyadic coping strategies (the Dyadic Coping Inventory).
Regarding sexual growth and destiny beliefs, participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with statements such as “if sexual partners are meant to be together, sex will be easy and wonderful” (sexual destiny) and “successful sexual relationships require regular maintenance” (sexual growth).
For dyadic coping, they rated their tendency to cope with stressful situations in certain ways such as “When I/my partner was stressed, I/they tended to withdraw” (negative dyadic coping) and “We tried to cope with the problem together and searched for solutions” (positive dyadic coping).
Ultimately, the authors of this study found that when individuals had stronger beliefs in the potential for improvement in their sex life (sexual growth) at the beginning of their MAR experience, they tended to have better communication with their partner (positive dyadic coping) after 6 months. However, those who experienced more negative dyadic coping at 6 months had lower sexual growth beliefs at 12 months.
Also, if individuals reported stronger beliefs in sexual compatibility (sexual destiny) at 6 months, they and their partners tended to have more negative communication at 12 months. On a broader level, those with higher overall sexual destiny beliefs had more negative communication overall, but no significant relationship was found with positive communication.
These findings highlight the importance of encouraging positive beliefs about sexual growth and the ability to improve one’s circumstances during challenging times such as undergoing MAR. Such beliefs may lead to better coping strategies between partners.
- Rossi, M.A., Péloquin, K., Allsop, D.B., El Amiri, S., Bouzayen, R., Brassard, A., Bergeron, S., & Rosen, N.O. (2023). Sexual growth and destiny beliefs: Longitudinal associations with dyadic coping among couples seeking medically assisted reproduction. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(10), 1241–1251, https://doi.org/10.1093/jsxmed/qdad098