Three Important Things

There are three important things that help people come to terms with their unmet desire for children: making meaning of their experience, accepting its reality, and refocusing life on other fulfilling goals.

In order to adjust and renew their sense of hope towards the future, people need to actively engage in these three tasks. They are not achievements, but unfolding processes that require daily active efforts in order to ‘move on’ with life. These tasks are also strongly related with each other and it is not possible to say that one is more important than the others. It can be said, however, that engaging with one is likely to make it easier to engage with the others.

Meaning Making


Pursuing Other Meaningful Life Goals





[1] These support materials were developed by Sofia Gameiro, Cardiff University.

They are based on a systematic review of how people adjust to failed fertility treatment conducted by Sofia Gameiro and Amy Finnigan (2017). The information summarises the personal experiences of 267 men and women from 6 different countries who underwent failed fertility treatment. The materials are more broadly informed by other research studies, either published or still undergoing (Gameiro et al, 2014, 2016; Gameiro, in prep), which together account for the experiences of more than 10,000 people. The quotes presented were retrieved from the primary qualitative research included in the Gameiro & Finnigan (2007) review. The exercises were developed by Sofia Gameiro, apart from when otherwise indicated.

Underpinning research

Gameiro, S., & Finnigan, A. (2017). Long-term adjustment to unmet parenthood goals following ART: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 23(3), 322-337.

Gameiro, S., van den Belt-Dusebout, A. W., Bleiker, E., Braat, D., van Leeuwen, F. E., & Verhaak, C. M. (2014). Do children make you happier? Sustained child-wish and mental health in women 11-17 years after fertility treatment. Human Reproduction, 29(10), 2238-2246. doi:10.1093/humrep/deu178

Gameiro, S., van den Belt-Dusebout, A. W., Smeenk, J., Braat, D., van Leeuwen, F. E., & Verhaak, C. M. (2016). Women’s adjustment trajectories during IVF and impact on mental health 11-17 years later. Human Reproduction, 31(8), 1788-1798. doi:10.1093/humrep/dew131

Gameiro, S. (in prep). Adjustment to unmet parenthood goals: A test of the Three Tasks Model of Adjustment to Unmet Parenthood Goals.

Primary qualitative studies reviewed

Boden, J. (2007). When IVF treatment fails. Human Fertility, 10(2), 93-98.

Daniluk, J. C. (2001). Reconstructing their lives: A longitudinal, qualitative analyses of the transition to biological childlessness for infertile couples. Journal of Counselling and Development, 79(4), 439-449.

Johansson, M., & Berg, M. (2004). Women’s experiences of childlessness 2 years after the end of in vitro fertilization treatment. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 19(1), 58-63.

Lee, G. L., Choi, W. H. H., C.H.Y., C., Chan, C. L. W., & Ng, E. H. Y. (2009). Life after unsuccessful IVF treatment in an assisted reproduction unit: A qualitative analysis of gains through loss among Chinese persons in Hong Kong. Human Reproduction, 24(8), 1920-1929.

McCarthy, M. P. (2008). Women’s lived experience of infertility after unsuccessful medical intervention. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 53(4), 319-324.

Su, T.-J., & Chen, Y.-C. (2006). Transforming hope: The lived experience of infertile women who terminated treatment after in Vitro Fertilization failure. Journal of Nursing Research, 14(1), 46-53.

Throsby, K. (2001). No one will ever call me Mummy: Making sense of the end of IVF treatment (Vol. 5, November). London: London School of Economics – Gender Institute.

Volgsten, H., Skoog-Svanberg, A., & Olsson, P. (2010). Unresolved grief in women and men in Sweden three years after undergoing unsuccessful in vitro fertilization treatment. Acta Obstericia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 89(10), 1290-1297.

Wirtberg, I., Möller, A., Hogström, L., Tronstad, S.-E., & Lalos, A. (2007). Life 20 years after unsuccessful infertility treatment. Human Reproduction, 22(2), 598-604.