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Women's Lived Experience of Infertility After Unsuccessful Medical Intervention


  • M. Patrice McCarthy RN, CNS, PhD

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    • M. Patrice McCarthy, RN, CNS, PhD, serves as a faculty member and director of the PhD program in the College of Nursing at the University of Akron, and teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate programs.

M. Patrice McCarthy, RN, CNS, PhD, College of Nursing, University of Akron, 309 Carroll St., Akron, OH 44325. E-mail:


The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore the phenomenon of women's experience with infertility in the aftermath of unsuccessful medical treatment. A purposive sample of 22 women between the ages of 33 and 48 years participated in a hermeneutic–phenomenological research process and were interviewed an average of 3.9 years after unsuccessful medical treatment. Women described the existential challenges to their sense of self, their identity, and the meaning and purpose of life. The paradoxical dimensions of loss and opportunity in their experience contributed to an altered view of themselves and their world. Infertility and its role as a life-defining experience pervaded their stories of living with infertility after unsuccessful treatment. Health care professionals are advised to assess women's overall well-being, mental health status with particular attention to spiritual well-being, and their social support network as a basis for determining supportive services that may be required in the wake of unsuccessful treatment for infertility.