Tailored expectant management in couples with unexplained infertility does not influence their experiences with the quality of fertility care

F. A.M. Kersten, R. P.G.M. Hermens, D. D.M. Braat, E. Tepe, A. Sluijmer, W. K. Kuchenbecker, N. Van Den Boogaard, B. W.J. Mol, M. Goddijn, W. L.D.M. Nelen

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STUDY QUESTION: Do couples who were eligible for tailored expectant management (TEM) and did not start treatment within 6 months after the fertility work-up, have different experiences with the quality of care than couples that were also eligible for TEM but started treatment right after the fertility work-up? SUMMARY ANSWER: Tailored expectant management of at least 6 months in couples with unexplained infertility is not associated with the experiences with quality of care or trust in their physician. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: In couples with unexplained infertility and a good prognosis of natural conception within 1 year, expectant management for 6-12 months does not compromise ongoing birth rates and is equally as effective as starting medically assisted reproduction immediately. Therefore, TEM is recommended by various international clinical guidelines. Implementation of TEM is still not optimal because of existing barriers on both patient and professional level. An important barrier is the hesitance of professionals to counsel their patients for TEM because they fear that patients will be dissatisfied with care. However, if and how adherence to TEM actually affects the couples' experience with care is unknown. Experiences with the quality care can be measured by evaluating the patient-centredness of care and the patients' trust in their physician. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a retrospective cross-sectional study. A survey with written questionnaires was performed among all couples who participated in the retrospective audit of guideline adherence on TEM in 25 Dutch clinics. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Couples were eligible to participate if they were diagnosed with unexplained infertility and had a good prognosis (>30%) of natural conception within 1 year based on the Hunault prediction model. We used patient's questionnaires to collect data on the couples' experience with the quality of care and possible confounders for their experiences other than having undergone TEM or not. Multilevel regression analyses were performed to investigate case-mix adjusted association of TEM with the patient-centredness of care (PCQ-Infertility) and the patients' trust in their physician (Wake Forest Trust Scale). MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Couples who adhered to TEM experienced the quality of care on the same level as couples who were exposed to early treatment, i.e. started fertility treatment within 6 months after fertility work-up. There were no associations between adherence to TEM and the patient-centredness of care or the patients' trust in their physician. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Because this study is retrospective, recall bias might occur. Furthermore, we were unable to measure the difference in experience with care over time. Therefore, our results have to be interpreted carefully. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Prospective research on couples undergoing TEM have to be performed to provide more detailed insight in the patients' experiences with the decision making process and subsequently the expectant period. Tackling the barriers surrounding TEM, i.e. better counselling and more patient information material, could further improve patient experiences with the quality of care for couples who are advised TEM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-116
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Early treatment
  • Expectant management
  • Experience with care
  • Guideline adherence
  • Patient-centredness
  • Prognostic model
  • Trust in physician
  • Unexplained infertility

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