Making Sense of Memorable Messages About Infertility: Examining Message Valence by Theme and Sender

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Fertility problems, often called infertility, have been defined as the inability to conceive or maintain pregnancy throughout one year of trying (World Health Organization, 2020). Because fertility problems can present unique medical, emotional, relational, and identity challenges, they are often difficult to talk about, and even well-intentioned messages can be perceived negatively. This study uses Communicated Sense-Making (CSM; Kellas & Kranstuber Horstman, 2015), particularly its mechanism of memorable messages, to explore what types of support-related messages people experiencing infertility find memorable. Results from semi-structured interviews (N = 54) indicate five supra-themes of memorable messages: (a) communicating solidarity; (b) attempting to minimize participants’ stress; (c) communicating investment or interest in the patient’s experience; (d) sharing expertise; and (e) absolving the patient of responsibility; we identify several sub-themes within each. We also explore patterns between message types, senders, and message valence: message themes were perceived as either positive, negative, or neutral based on the combination of sender and perceived intention. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.




Voorhees, H. L., Koenig Kellas, J., Palmer-Wackerly, A. L., Gunning, J. N., Marsh, J. S., & Baker, J. (2023). Making Sense of Memorable Messages About Infertility: Examining Message Valence by Theme and Sender. Health Communication.

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