Infertility Stigma: A Qualitative Study on Feelings and Experiences of Infertile Women

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

3 Department of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, Midwifery and Reproductive Health Research Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

4 Health Metrics Research Centre, Iranian Ins titute for Health Sciences Research, ACECR, Tehran, Iran

5 Department of Bios tatis tics, School of Allied Medical Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Infertility stigma is a phenomenon associated with various psychological and social tensions especially
for women. The stigma is associated with a feeling of shame and secrecy. The present study was aimed to explore the
concept of infertility stigma based on the experiences and perceptions of infertile women.

Materials and Methods:
This qualitative conventional content analysis study was conducted in Isfahan Fertility and
Infertility Center, Iran. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 17 women who had primary infertility.
All the interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed according to the steps suggested by Graneheim and Lundman.
The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) checklist was followed for this research.

Eight hundred thirty-six initial codes were extracted from the interviews and divided into 25 sub-categories,
10 categories, and four themes. The themes included “stigma profile, self-stigma, defensive mechanism and balancing”.
Stigma profile was perceived in the form of verbal, social and same sex stigma. Self-stigma was experienced
as negative feelings and devaluation. Defensive mechanism was formed from three categories of escaping from the
stigma, acceptance and infertility behind the mask. Two categories; empowered women and pressure levers, created a
balancing theme against the infertility stigma.

Infertile women face social and self-stigma which threatenstheir psychosocial wellbeing and self-esteem.
They use defensive response mechanisms and social support to mitigate these effects. Education focused on coping
strategies might be helpful against infertility stigma.


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