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 Mariana Sousa Leite

Mariana Sousa Leite

Research student, School of Psychology

Email
sousaleitem@cardiff.ac.uk
Campuses
63 Park Place, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Overview

I am a doctoral student. I work within the Cardiff Fertility Studies research group, in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, in collaboration with the Laboratory for Integrative and Translational Research in Population Health (ITR), in the Public Health Institute at the University of Porto (ISPUP) in Portugal.


I have a keen interest in clinical and health psychology. Nowadays, I find myself immersed within various aspects of (in)fertility and parenthood decision-making. My research focuses on the psychosocial adjustment process of patients throughout their fertility journey, but particularly if and when their fertility journey is unsuccessful (i.e., when patients undergo all treatment cycles without achieving the children they wished for). I have been conducting quantitative and qualitative studies on how people form their intentions surrounding reproductive technology and their parenthood goals, and how these intentions evolve over time. I also have been investigating the preferences and views of those involved in reproductive health towards psychosocial support. This research has been informing evidence-based routine practice, in particular the development and evaluation of support tools that aim to facilitate patients’ psychosocial adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment.


If you are interested in finding out more about this research, or you would like to take part in this work, please visit the research group Cardiff Fertiltiy Studies, coordinated by Professor Jacky Boivin (boivin@cardiff.ac.uk) and Dr Sofia Gameiro (gameiros@cardiff.ac.uk). 


Education



  • Master dissertation. School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

  • Extracurricular course - Psychopharmacology. School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, PT

  • Integrated Master’s degree. School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, PT


Awards



  • First Prize in paper presentation - junior category (Jan 2022). FUSION2022 - ESHRE, IFS and ISAR International Conference on Reproductive Medicine.

  • Nominated for PhD junior researcher (Sept. 2021). School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK

  • Merit scholarship award (Oct 2020). Directorate-General of Higher Education (DGES), Lisbon, PT

  • Excellence scholarship award (May 2019). University of Minho, Braga, PT

Research

Research interests

1. Reproductive decision-making - Fertility preservation


Parenthood is a universal life goal that most people would like to achieve at some point in their lives. However, over the few last decades, a continuous trend to postpone parenthood has been observed, in many developed countries, as women aim to reach their desired personal, professional, and economic stability before starting to have children. It is well-established how women’s fertility declines with the increase of age. This decline significantly  impacts a woman's  ability to have children, leading to involuntary childlessness or unmet parenthood goals (i.e., ending the reproductive life with fewer children than desired). Fertility Preservation could be a suitable option for these women who want to postpone parenthood to a later stage. It is a reproductive technique that provides women with the opportunity to have genetic offspring later by cryopreserving their gametes or embryos at younger ages. However, this technique is currently being used at an age that undermines its success potential, on average at 38 years old. My research explores women’s decision-making process about the use of this technique. This research aims to inform the development of routine practice tools to better support and advise women about if and when to use this technique.


Paper: Sousa-Leite, M., Figueiredo, B., ter Keurst, A., Boivin, J., & Gameiro, S. (2019). Women's attitudes and beliefs about using fertility preservation to prevent age-related fertility decline - a two-year follow-up. Patient Education and Counseling, 102(9), 1695- 1702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2019.03.019


Book chapter: Sousa-Leite, M., & Figueiredo, B. (2018). Fertility preservation to prevent age-related fertility decline: systematic review. In J. Justo (Ed.), Diálogos acerca da infertilidade (pp. 117-131). PSICOAP.


2. Psychosocial adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment


Over 9% of people worldwide face uncontrollable and unexpected conditions such as fertility problems or other barriers (i.e., gay couples, single women) that impair their ability to achieve their parenthood goals (i.e., number of biological children they wished for). Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is considered the last chance for people to have biological children. However, around one-third of people undergoing ART end it without achieving a live birth. This experience triggers an intense and prolonged grief process, characterised by mental-health problems and low well-being at short- and long-term (up to 23 years after treatment ends). Multiple guidelines and codes of practice in the fertility field stress the importance of providing specialised psychosocial care to these patients. However, there is a lack of available support for patients at this stage. My current research aims to develop and evaluate a brief theory-driven psychosocial intervention, Beyond Fertility, that aims to promote patients’ healthy adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment. Specific aims are to (1) develop Beyond Fertility, (2) evaluate its feasibility, and (3) conduct a Randomised Controlled Trial to evaluate its efficacy.


Clinical trials: Sousa-Leite, M., Costa, R., Figueiredo, B., & Gameiro, S. (2022). Beyond Fertility: a psychosocial intervention to promote patients’ healthy adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment. ISRCTN. https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN85897617


Supervision



  • Dr Sofia Gameiro. School of Psychology at Cardiff University.

  • Professor Bárbara Figueiredo. School of Psychology at University of Minho.

  • Dr Raquel Costa. Institute of Public Health at University of Porto (ISPUP).

Teaching

Teaching summary


PS2024 Psychological Research Skills. School of Psychology at Cardiff University.  


School engagement


PhD student representative (since October 2020). School of Psychology at Cardiff University.


Speaking engagements


International



  • Sousa-Leite, M., Costa, R., Figueiredo, B., & Gameiro. (2022, Jul). Patients’ willingness and preferences about being counselled for the possibility of fertility treatment being unsuccessful [Oral communication]. 38th Annual Meeting of ESHRE (Symposium: The power of patients' experience), Milan, Italy.

  • Sousa-Leite, M., Costa, R., Figueiredo, B., & Gameiro. (2022, Jan). Feasibility and acceptability of psychosocial intervention support for unsuccessful fertility treatment [Oral communication]. FUSION2022 - ESHRE, IFS and ISAR International Conference on Reproductive Medicine, Online.

  • Sousa-Leite, M., Costa, R., Figueiredo, B., & Gameiro. (2021, Jan). Association between an unfulfilled child-wish and wellbeing in an UK population representative sample [Poster presentation]. Fertility 2021, Online.

  • Sousa Leite, M., Figueiredo, B., ter Keurst, A., Boivin, J., & Gameiro, S. (2019, Jun). Women's decision-making process about the use of fertility preservation (FP) to prevent age-related fertility decline: a two-year prospective study [Oral communication]. 35th Annual Meeting of ESHRE (Symposium: Preventing infertility: What works?), Vienna, Austria.

  • Gameiro, S., Vermeulen, N., & Sousa-Leite, M. (2018, Jul). How do ESHRE members use and evaluate the ESHRE guidelines? [Invited lecture]. 34th annual meeting of ESHRE (Symposium: Before ART: Fertility awareness, assessment and preservation), Barcelona, Spain.


National



  • Sousa-Leite, M., Figueiredo, B., & Gameiro, S. (2019, Nov). Beyond Fertility: promoting couples’ positive adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment [Para além da Fertilidade: promover o ajustamento positivo dos casais ao insucesso do tratamento de fertilidade] [Oral communication]. 2nd Annual Meeting of the Marcé Society Portuguese Speaking Group (Symposium: Perinatal mental health of infants at risk: intervention), Guimarães, Portugal.


Further papers in international scientific journals


Gameiro, S., Sousa-Leite, M., & Vermeulen, N. (2019). How do ESHRE members use and evaluate the ESHRE guidelines? Human Reproduction Open, 2019(3), hoz011. https://doi.org/10.1093/hropen/hoz011



Thesis

Beyond Infertility: an evidence-based psychological intervention to promote couples’ positive adjustment to unsuccessful fertility treatment.

Funding source

Doctoral 4-year grant (SFRH/BD/144429/2019), by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).

Supervisors