What is the quality of life (QoL) and mental health of infertile heterosexual couples from different nations (Italy, Germany and France) undergoing cross-border oocyte donation (OD) in Spain?
Women have lower QoL and more anxiety than their male partners; overall French couples have lower QoL than their Italian and German counterparts.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY:
In Europe, thousands of couples move across national borders annually to seek ARTs, primarily OD, driven mainly by legal restrictions in their countries of origin. Most research shows that infertility and ARTs affect patients’ mental health and QoL. The decision to undergo reproductive care abroad might add further emotional and practical complexity. Reliable information on how this experience affects the mental health and QoL of cross-border reproductive care (CBRC) patients is lacking. Moreover, most research has focused on women, and further research on male partners and intercultural differences is needed.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION:
Cross-sectional study including 548 heterosexual individuals (347 women, 201 men) from Italy, Germany and France seeking IVF with donated oocytes in Barcelona, Spain between March and November 2013.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS:
A total of 432 couples were invited to participate and handed a questionnaire set. Questionnaires were answered separately and anonymously by each member of the couple on the day of embryo transfer. The questionnaire set included the Fertility Quality of Life (FertiQoL) instrument, the generic Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) instrument and three close-ended questions assessing perceived usefulness, desire, and use of psychological support. The overall response rate was 63.4%.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE:
Men reported significantly higher scores than women in the emotional (+13.74; P < 0.001), mind-body (+13.39; P < 0.001) and social (+4.11; P < 0.01) FertiQoL domains, at multilevel analysis controlled for confounder factors. Intercultural differences in QoL of couples were seen. French individuals had significantly lower emotional (-6.44; P < 0.01), mind-body (-7.41; P < 0.001) and relational scores (-6.41; P < 0.001) compared to Italians. Germans showed higher social scores (+6.41; P < 0.001) but lower relational scores (-8.94; P < 0.002) than Italians. Men reported significantly lower anxiety scores for the HADS than their partners (-1.38; P < 0.001), and German couples reported lower anxiety (-1.70; P = 0.003) and depression than their Italian counterparts (-1.56; P < 0.001). French patients were more likely to have required support by a mental health professional due to fertility problems in the past (+0.19; P < 0.001).
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION:
The scope of this study is limited to heterosexual couples undergoing cross-border OD. Caution on the interpretation of the results in men is advised, mainly because only three men for every five women completed the questionnaire.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS:
These findings call for further work to identify the true nature of the differences in QoL and mental health observed.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S):
FertiQoL; Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS); cross-border reproductive care; oocyte donation (OD); psychosocial well-being; quality of life