OJOG  Vol.3 No.7 , September 2013
Canadian university students’ perceptions of future personal infertility

Objective: University is a time for self-discovery, development of independence and transition to adulthood. It is not well examined whether childless university students also consider the potential of future personal infertility. The objective of this study was to document expectations and perceptions related to personal infertility in a sample of young adults. Methods: Using a qualitative approach, interviews were conducted with 39 male and female university students in Ottawa, Canada. Interview topics included contemplation of personal infertility, anticipated gendered experience of infertility and cultural perceptions of infertility. Results: The possibility of future infertility was not contemplated by most participants (74%). Although students generally expected infertility to be an emotional experience, women especially anticipated that infertility would be associated with negative gender identity and reduced self-esteem. Ethnic-minority participants from pro-natalist countries perceived infertility to be stigmatized by their communities, particularly against women. Conclusions: This sample of childless young adults anticipated many gendered and cultural dimensions of the experience of infertility, suggesting that these perceptions are shaped well in advance of contemplation of family planning.

Cite this paper
Whitten, A. , Remes, O. , Sabarre, K. , Khan, Z. and Phillips, K. (2013) Canadian university students’ perceptions of future personal infertility. Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 3, 561-568. doi: 10.4236/ojog.2013.37101.
[1]   O`Sullivan, L.F., Udell, W., Montrose, V.A., Antoniello, P. and Hoffman, S. (2010) A cognitive analysis of college students’ explanations for engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1121-1131. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9493-7

[2]   Public Health Agency of Canada (2009) Executive summary—Report on sexually transmitted infections in Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/sti-its-surv-epi/sum-som-eng.php

[3]   Paavonen, J. (2012) Chlamydia trachomatis infections of the female genital tract: State of the art. Annals of Medicine, 44, 18-28. doi:10.3109/07853890.2010.546365

[4]   Elford, K.J. and Spence, J.E. (2002) The forgotten female: Pediatric and adolescent gynecological concerns and their reproductive consequences. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 15, 65-77. doi:10.1016/S1083-3188(01)00146-2

[5]   Ochsendorf, F.R. (2008) Sexually transmitted infections: Impact on male fertility. Andrologia, 40, 72-75. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2007.00825.x

[6]   Tydén, T., Svanberg, A.S., Karlstrom, P.O., Lihoff, L. and Lampic, C. (2006) Female university students’ attitudes to future motherhood and their understanding about fertility. European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 11, 181-189. doi:10.1080/13625180600557803

[7]   Lampic, C., Svanberg, A.S., Karlstrom, P. and Tydén, T. (2006) Fertility awareness, intentions concerning childbearing, and attitudes towards parenthood among female and male academics. Human Reproduction, 21, 558-564. doi:10.1093/humrep/dei367

[8]   Svanberg, A.S., Lampic, C., Karlstrom, P.O. and Tydén, T. (2006) Attitudes toward parenthood and awareness of fertility among postgraduate students in Sweden. Gender Medicine, 3, 187-195. doi:10.1016/S1550-8579(06)80207-X

[9]   Virtala, A., Vilska, S., Huttunen, T. and Kunttu, K. (2011) Childbearing, the desire to have children, and awareness about the impact of age on female fertility among Finnish university students. European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 16, 108-115. doi:10.3109/ 13625187.2011.553295

[10]   Rovei, V., Gennarelli, G., Lantieri, T., Casano, S., Revelli, A. and Massobrio, M. (2010) Family planning, fertility awareness and knowledge about Italian legislation on assisted reproduction among Italian academic students. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 20, 873-879. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2010.03.024

[11]   Peterson, B.D., Pirritano, M., Tucker, L. and Lampic, C. (2012) Fertility awareness and parenting attitudes among American male and female undergraduate university students. Human Reproduction, 27, 1375-1382. doi:10.1093/humrep/des011

[12]   Bunting, L. and Boivin, J. (2008) Knowledge about infertility risk factors, fertility myths and illusory benefits of healthy habits in young people. Human Reproduction, 23, 1858-1864. doi:10.1093/ humrep/den168

[13]   Hashiloni-Dolev, Y., Kaplan, A. and Shkedi-Rafid, S. (2011) The fertility myth: Israeli students’ knowledge regarding age-related fertility decline and late pregnancies in an era of assisted reproduction technology. Human Reproduction, 26, 3045-3053. doi:10.1093/humrep/der304

[14]   Bretherick, K.L., Fairbrother, N., Avila, L., Harbord, S.H. and Robinson, W.P. (2010) Fertility and aging: Do reproductive-aged Canadian women know what they need to know? Fertility and Sterility, 93, 2162-2168. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.01.064

[15]   Quach, S. and Librach, C. (2008) Infertility knowledge and attitudes in urban high school students. Fertility and Sterility, 90, 2099-2106. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.10.024

[16]   Trent, M., Millstein, S.G. and Ellen, J.M. (2006) Gender-based differences in fertility beliefs and knowledge among adolescents from high sexually transmitted disease-prevalence communities. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 282-287. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.02.012

[17]   Foster, W.G., Neal, M.S., Han, M.S. and Dominguez, M.M. (2008) Environmental contaminants and human infertility: hypothesis or cause for concern? Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part B, Critical Reviews, 11, 162-176. doi:10.1080/10937400701873274

[18]   Tough, S., Tofflemire, K., Benzies, K., Fraser-Lee, N. and Newburn-Cook, C. (2007) Factors influencing childbearing decisions and knowledge of perinatal risks among Canadian men and women. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 11, 189-198. doi:10.1007/s10995-006-0156-1

[19]   Koert, E. and Daniluk, J.C. (2010) Sexual transitions in the lives of adult women. In: Miller, T.W., Ed., Handbook of Stressful Transitions across the Lifespan, Springer, New York, 235-252. doi:10.1007/ 978-1-4419-0748-6_12

[20]   Daniluk, J.C. (2003) Creating a life. In: Women’s sexuality across the Lifespan: Challenging Myths, Creating Meanings, Guilford Press, New York, 163-185.

[21]   Dudgeon, M.R. and Inhorn, M.C. (2003) Gender, masculinity and reproduction: Anthropological perspectives. International Journal of Men’s Health, 2, 31-56. doi:10.3149/jmh.0201.31

[22]   Fisher, J.R.W., Baker, G.H.W. and Hammarberg, K. (2010) Long-term health, well-being, life satisfaction, and attitudes toward parenthood in men diagnosed as infertile: Challenges to gender stereotypes and implications for practice. Fertility and Sterility, 94, 574-580. doi:10.1016/ j.fertnstert.2009.01.165

[23]   Gannon, K., Glover, L. and Abel, P.D. (2004) Masculinity, infertility, stigma and media reports. Social Science & Medicine, 59, 1169-1175. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.01.015

[24]   Smith, J.F., Walsh, T.J., Shindel, A.W., Turek, P.J., Wing, H., Pasch, L. and Katz, PP. and Infertility Outcomes Program Project Group (2009) Sexual, marital, and social impact of a man’s perceived infertility diagnosis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 2505-2515. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01383.x

[25]   Casey Jacob, M., McQuillan, J. and Griel, A.I. (2007) Psychological distress by type of fertility barrier. Human Reproduction, 22, 885-895. doi:10.1093/humrep/del452

[26]   Ramezanzadeh, F., Aghssa, M.M., Abedinia, N., Zayeri, F., Khanafshar, N. and Jafarbadi, M. (2004) A survey of relationship between anxiety, depression and duration of infertility. BMC Women’s Health, 4, 9-18. doi:10.1186/1472-6874-4-9

[27]   Franco Jr., J.G., Razera Baruffi, R.L., Mauri, A.L., Petersen, C.G., Felipe, V. and Garbellini, E. (2002) Psychological evaluation test for infertile couples. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 19, 269-23. doi:10.1023/A:1015706829102

[28]   Hjelmstedt, A., Andersson, L., Skoog-Svanberg, A., Bergh, T., Boivin, J. and Collins, A. (1999) Gender differences in psychological reactions to infertility among couples seeking IVFand ICSI-treatment. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 78, 42-48. doi:10.1080/j.1600-0412.1999.780110.x

[29]   Lechner, L., Bolman, C. and van Dalen, A. (2007) Definite involuntary childlessness: associations between coping, social support and psychological distress. Human Reproduction, 22, 288-294. doi:10.1093/humrep/del327

[30]   Peterson, B.D., Newton, C.R., Rosen, K.H. and Skaggs, G.E. (2006) Gender differences in how men and women who are referred for IVF cope with infertility stress. Human Reproduction, 21, 2443-2449.

[31]   Inhorn, M.C., Ceballo, R. and Nachtigall, R. (2009) Marginalized, invisible, and unwanted: American minority struggles with infertility and assisted conception. In: Culley, L., Hudson, N. and Van Rooij, F., Eds., Marginalized Reproduction: Ethnicity, Infertility and Reproductive Technologies, Earthscan, Sterling, 181-197.

[32]   Inhorn, M.C. and Birenbaum-Carmeli, D. (2008) Assisted reproductive technologies and culture change. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37, 177-196. doi:10.1146/annurev. anthro.37. 081407. 085230

[33]   Mitchell, B.A. (2006) Changing courses: The pendulum of family transitions in comparative perspective. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37, 325-343.

[34]   Sandelowski, M. (2000) Focus on research methods: Whatever happened to qualitative description? Research in Nursing & Health, 23, 334-340. doi:10.1002/1098-240X(200008)23:4<334::AID-NUR9>3.0.CO;2-G

[35]   Morse, J.M. (1994) Designing funded qualitative research. In: Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S., Eds., Handbook of Qualitative Inquiry, Sage Publications Ltd., Thousand Oaks, 220-235.

[36]   Skoog, S.A., Lampic, C., Karlstr?m, P.O. and Tydén, T. (2006) Attitudes toward parenthood and awareness of fertility among postgraduate students in Sweden. Gender Medicine, 3, 187-195. doi:10.1016/S1550-8579(06)80207-X

[37]   Daniluk, J.C. and Koert, E. (2012) Childless Canadian men’s and women’s childbearing intentions, attitudes towards and willingness to use assisted human reproduction. Human Reproduction, 27, 2405-2412. doi:10.1093/humrep/des190

[38]   Daniluk, J.C. (1997) Helping patients cope with infertility. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology, 40, 661-672. doi:10.1097/00003081-199709000-00025

[39]   Harris, D.L. and Daniluk, J.C. (2010) The experience of spontaneous pregnancy loss for infertile women who have conceived through assisted reproduction technology. Human Reproduction, 25, 714-720. doi:10.1093/humrep/dep445

[40]   Lukse, M. and Vacc, N. (1999) Grief, depression, and coping in women undergoing infertility treatment. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 93, 245-251.

[41]   Hammerli, K., Znoj, H. and Berger, T. (2010) What are the issues confronting infertile women? A qualitative and quantitative approach. Qualitative Report, 15, 766-782.

[42]   Lin, Y. (2002) Counselling a Taiwanese woman with infertility problems. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 15, 209-215. doi:10.1080/09515070110104024

[43]   Matsubayashi, H., Hosaka, T., Izumi, S.I., Suzuki, T., Kondo, A. and Makino, T. (2004) Increased depression and anxiety in infertile Japanese women resulting from lack of husband’s support and feelings of stress. General Hospital Psychiatry, 26, 398-404. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych. 2004.05.002

[44]   Fido, A. and Zahid, M.A. (2004) Coping with infertility among Kuwaiti women: Cultural perspectives. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 50, 294-300. doi:10.1177/0020764004050334

[45]   Nasseri, M. (2000) Cultural similarities in psychological reactions to infertility. Psychological Reports, 86, 375-378. doi:10.2466/pr0.2000.86.2.375

[46]   Culley, L. and Hudson, N. (2009) Commonalities, differences and possibilities culture and infertility in British South Asian communities. In: Culley, N.L. and Van Rooij, F.H., Eds., Marginalized Reproduction: Ethnicity, Infertility and Reproductive Technologies, Earthscan, Stirling VA, 97-116.

[47]   Culley, L., Hudson, N., Rapport, F.L., Katbamna, S. and Johnson, M.R.D. (2006) British South Asian communities and infertility services. Human Fertility, 9, 37-45. doi:10.1080/14647270500282644

[48]   Dooley, M., Nolan, A. and Sarma, K.M. (2011) The psychological impact of male factor infertility and fertility treatment on men: A qualitative study. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 32, 14-24. doi:10.1080/03033910.2011.611253

[49]   Hammarberg, K., Baker, H.W.G. and Fisher, J.R.W. (2010) Men’s experiences of infertility and infertility treatment 5 years after diagnosis of male factor infertility: A retrospective cohort study. Human Reproduction, 25, 2815-2820. doi:10.1093/humrep/deq259

[50]   Wischmann, T. (2013) ‘Your count is zero’—Counselling the infertile man. Human Fertility, 16, 35-39. doi:10.3109/14647273.2013.776179

[51]   van Rooij, F.B., Van Balen, F. and Hermanns, J.M. (2007) Emotional distress and infertility: Turkish migrant couples compared to Dutch couples and couples in Western Turkey. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 28, 87-95. doi:10.1080/01674820701410015

[52]   van Rooija, F.B., van Balen, F. and Hermannsa, J.M.A. (2004) A review of Islamic Middle Eastern migrants: Traditional and religious cultural beliefs about procreation in the context of infertility treatment. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 22, 321-331. doi:10.1080/ 02646830412331298369

[53]   Vanderlinden, L.K. (2009) German genes and Turkish traits: Ethnicity, infertility, and reproductive politics in Germany. Social Science & Medicine, 69, 266-273. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.03.027

[54]   Douki, S., Ben, Z.S., Nacef, F. and Halbreich, U. (2007) Women’s mental health in the Muslim world: Cultural, religious, and social issues. Journal of Affective Disorders, 102, 177-189. doi:10.1016/ j.jad.2006.09.027

[55]   Culley, L. and Hudson, N. (2009) Constructing relatedness: Ethnicity, gender and third party assisted concepttion in the UK. Current Sociology, 57, 249-267. doi:10.1177/0011392108099165

[56]   Andres, L. and Adamuti-Trache, M. (2008) Life-course transitions, social class, and gender: A 15-year perspective of the lived lives of Canadian young adults. Journal of Youth Studies, 11, 115-145. doi:10.1080/13676260701800753

[57]   Ross L.E., Steele L.S., and Epstein R. (2006) Lesbian and bisexual women’s recommendations for improving the provision of assisted reproductive technology services. Fertility and Sterility, 86, 735-738. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2006.01.049

[58]   Mitchell, B.A. (2004) Making the move: Cultural and parental influences on Canadian young adults’ home leaving. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35, 423-443.