Academic journal article Family Relations

Prenatal Coparenting Alliance and Marital Satisfaction When Pregnancy Occurs after Assisted Reproductive Technologies or Spontaneously

Academic journal article Family Relations

Prenatal Coparenting Alliance and Marital Satisfaction When Pregnancy Occurs after Assisted Reproductive Technologies or Spontaneously

Article excerpt

The birth of a first child is one of the most challenging family transitions (Holmes, Sasaki, & Hazen, 2013). It is an even greater adjustment for infertile couples who conceive through assisted reproductive technology (ART). In addition to the transition from a dyadic unit to a family unit that all couples undergo, infertile couples must also transition from infertility to medically assisted fertility (Hammarberg, Fisher, & Wynter, 2008). Several reviews have shown that the experience of being infertile and undergoing infertility treatment can alter many aspects of the individual's and the couple's functioning (e.g., Chachamovich et al., 2010; Greil, Slauson-Blevins, & McQuillan, 2010). Particularly among women, these alterations include high distress, depression and anxiety symptoms during ART treatments, stress related to their sexual relationship, and isolation from family and friends who have children (Domar, Broome, Zuttermeister, Seibel, & Friedman, 1992; Newton, Sherrard, & Glavac, 1999). By researching couples who conceived through ART, we sought to understand whether the experience of infertility and its treatment affects the pregnancy experience. More generally, we aimed to add to the knowledge about the risk and protective factors at work in the transition to parenthood.

Pregnancy After ART

Experiences specific to pregnancy after ART have been described in a number of studies. Infertile couples are more often confronted with adverse perinatal outcomes and obstetrical complications (Pinborg et al., 2013). These risks have been attributed to infertility itself and to various aspects of the medical procedure. During pregnancy, couples who conceived via ART have more pregnancy-related anxieties than couples who conceived spontaneously (Gameiro, Moura-Ramos, Canavarro, & Soares, 2010; Hjelmstedt, Widström, Wramsby, & Collins, 2003; McMahon, Ungerer, Beaurepaire, Tennant, & Saunders, 1997). However, they are not different from control couples in other aspects, such as prenatal depression or attachment to the fetus (e.g., Hjelmstedt, Widström, & Collins, 2006; Hjelmstedt, Widström, Wramsby, & Collins, 2004; McMahon et al., 1997; Ulrich, Gagel, Hemmerling, Pastor, & Kentenich, 2004).

Coparenting Relationship

For all couples, the transition to parenthood requires the development of a coparenting relationship. The coparenting relationship is defined as the way in which partners support or undermine each other in their parental roles (McHale, 2007). It is thought to exist at a different level of the family system from the marital relationship: at a triadic or whole-family (i.e., including a child) level of analysis rather than at a dyadic level of analysis (e.g., Hayden et al., 1998; Schoppe-Sullivan, Mangelsdorf, Frosch, & McHale, 2004).

The coparenting relationship has been studied most often in parents with children of various ages and has been described as a key aspect of family functioning (McHale & Lindahl, 2011). The quality of the coparenting relationship is associated with children's socioemotional and cognitive outcomes, in particular their self-regulation, quality of peer interaction, ability to discuss emotional topics, and quality of attachment (e.g., Belsky, Putnam, & Crnic, 1996; Gable, Crnic, & Belsky, 1994; McHale & Sullivan, 2008).

The development of the coparenting relationship starts during pregnancy, if not earlier. At this stage, parents tend to coordinate their expectations for their partner's parenting behavior "in learning to cooperatively parent a child" (Van Egeren, 2004, p. 457). Von Klitzing, Simoni, and Bürgin (1999) examined how, during a couple interview in the last trimester of pregnancy, each parent was able to anticipate themselves as an important relational person for the infant while also including the other partner in their representations of the future family (triadic capacity). The results indicated that this triadic capacity was predictive of the quality of family interactions when the child was 4 months old. …

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