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If nurses are to work effectively with families in contemporary society, their practice activities must be appropriately informed Families exposed to new technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) require care that is sensitive to then: particular experience Infertile couples have been the subject of a substantial body of research, however, most studies to date focus on the physiological effects of infertility and do not take into account the context in which the experience takes place, or the meanings that people assign to this experience

The purpose of this study was to examine in-depth the experience of couples undergoing IVF treatment for infertility A phenomenological approach was adopted for the study A purposive sample of six couples was selected for interview Data were generated from taped interviews and the researcher's observational field notes Data analysis was in accordance with the procedure outlined by Colaizzi (1978) Interview responses were categorized by examining the participants' transcripts and identifying significant statements and meanings Themes which emerged from the statements were then identified, and cross-case comparisons were made to confirm or modify these themes

Four key themes emerged from the data life changes, powerlessness, hope-disappointment cycle, and social isolation All couples undergoing infertility treatment experienced life changes which included lifestyle changes, various physical and emotional changes, and changes in their relationships There was a perceived loss of control over many aspects of their lives Couples also described a cycle, alternating feelings of hope and disappointment Most of the couples reported feelings of social isolation associated with being infertile, that were intensified by having to deal with the inappropriate responses of others

Findings from this study will add to the knowledge base on infertility, and contribute to recommendations for improving the way nurses guide, counsel, and support infertile couples