A qualitative content analysis of the perceptions of the meanings & experiences of infertile African American couples
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This qualitative content analysis study examined scholarly peer-reviewed research journal articles, dissertations, and theses published or defended between 1980 – 2018 that focused on the meanings and lived experiences of infertile, African American heterosexual couples. Currently, infertility affects approximately six million men and women in the United States, which estimates to one in eight couples facing difficulty with conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to full term (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008b). Ambiguous loss theory (Boss, 1999) was used to offer a framework for examining and understanding the experience of infertility among African American couples in terms of grief and loss. The findings revealed that infertile African American couples, (1) were aware of how the biological, psychological, and social changes impacted their experience of infertility; (2) understood the impact infertility had on the functioning of the relationship both positively and negatively; (3) openly expressed the meaning they placed on their infertility experience; (4) had deeply held consideration of how sharing their stories was a blessing to others and a coping mechanism for them; and (5) considered their experience of infertility as trauma which led couples to shy away from delving into that part of their experience . Five themes emerged from the data: (a) Biopsychosocial Interaction: Emotional Rollercoaster, (b) Relationship Functioning and Satisfaction, (c) Meaning of Infertility, (d) Sharing our Story: Strength in Release and Support, and (e) Ambiguous Loss: Physical Absence and Psychological Presence. Couples’ responses were included to illustrate the themes. Limitations and clinical implications for African American couples and families, Marriage and Family Therapists, and healthcare providers are discussed. Recommendations for further research include: (a) examining the experiences of infertility among other minority groups for comparison; (b) utilizing a longitudinal study to explore how the meanings and perceptions of infertility change over a longer period of time; (c) exploring how infertility impacts other family members; (d) investigating the experience of infertility among infertile remarried couples; (e) studying how therapy practices when used as a coping resource impacts how infertile couples make meaning and perceive their infertility; and (f) exploration of the experiences of infertility from the male researcher perspective.