Background: Specific subgroups of people planning IVF might be at risk of having more psychological or health-related problems. Identification of subgroups at risk may better enable allocation of appropriate counselling. Methods: A group of 425 men and 447 women planning to undergo IVF treatment filled out a questionnaire. Four domains of health-related quality of life were measured, namely perceived emotional, physical, cognitive and social functioning. Results: Young men and women (aged 21-30 years) planning IVF had more short-term social and emotional problems than people of the same age group in the general population. No substantial differences were found in cognitive and physical functioning for all age groups of men nor women planning IVF compared with the general population. A high level of irrational parenthood cognitions substantially accounted for a less optimal score on all the different domains of quality of life. These cognitions ('needing a child in order to live a happy life') were especially prevalent among younger women. Conclusions: Patients with high levels of irrational parenthood cognitions are at risk of a less optimal quality of life. A short cognitive counselling therapy is advised for patients with high levels of these cognitions.