Introduction Existing research has predominantly focused on medical, psychological, social and cultural aspects of infertility, while religious and spiritual dimensions have received little attention. This study using a socio-epidemiological perspective designed a qualitative study to explore how religion/spirituality affect social consequences of infertility.
Method The design was a grounded theory study including semi structured in-depth interviews with 30 infertile women affiliated to different denominations of Christianity (Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy) and Islam (Shiite and Sunni). Data were collected in one Iranian and two UK fertility clinics through theoretical sampling and analysed using grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 2008).
Results Emerging categories included: perceived motherhood, relationship adjustment and social functioning. Religious participants viewed motherhood as a highly recommended religious value, something sacred, God's gift, respectful honour and social fulfilment. They perceived infertility as God's will, God's test, being chosen by God and an enriching experience for spiritual growth. These kinds of beliefs helped them to perceive their marital life as something granted by God which could be accepted peacefully and its outcome would be family commitment and cohesion. Their religious views on socialisation as a religious value motivated them to search reassurance through the love and care of congregation members as well as offering support to others to gain intimacy and as a consequence being liberated from social isolation caused by infertility.
Conclusion It seems that religious beliefs are influential for religious/spiritual infertile women to handle the social implications of infertility.
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