Infertility is often in the news – most recently, should infertility be categorised as a disease, and debate on whether to educate school children about infertility. The sensational headlines often jump onto whatever is the latest thing to potentially cause infertility – ibuprofen and asthma inhalers being some recent additions.
However, the media often ignores the impact that infertility has on mental health and relationships. Rather than focusing on the serious emotional and psychological aspects, the headlines that dominate are on every other feature.
Regardless of the cause of the infertility, the impact on a relationship can be devastating. The devastation comes from the face that couples simply assume that they will have children, and when that doesn’t happen they experience grief – similar to when someone close to them dies.
Many of the fertility treatments – whether it is taking fertility drugs or going through IVF – can be stressful and can put strain on the relationship as a result. You don’t know if you will be successful or not and you may suffer setbacks and disappointments along the way.
You may also feel uncomfortable about loss of privacy as a couple as you face discussing things with medical staff, friends and family that you would normally keep personal.
The following tips can help you to keep your relationship strong throughout the challenges that you may face:
Talking about fertility problems with your partner can be difficult. However, in suppressing your feelings, and avoiding those painful conversations you can make things worse. Keeping the feelings to yourself can lead to depression, anger and resentment. If you don’t share the emotional experience it can also lead to accusations rather than partnership.
Do not place blame
Infertility can often be seen as a woman’s issue, often found amongst the pages of women’s magazines. However it of course can be related to male fertility – in fact there are a huge number of reasons for for infertility. Some are quickly discovered and others remain elusive such as unexplained fertility – when everything appears ‘normal’.
If you are told that the problem lies with one of you, that person can feel the burden of responsibility.
Ultimately, you need to vow to each other that you are a team and will divide the mental weight between you.
It is perfectly normal for their to be difference in opinion when making big decisions along the way. The important thing is to disagree constructively by avoiding saying anything that could hurt the other. By passionately launching into an argument it is unlikely that you will be able to get your partner to see your side of things.
Make any financial plans together
Fertility treatment such as IVF can cost large amount so it is often a cause of stress between couples trying to find the money to cover it. You will also have to discuss how much you are willing to spend, and perhaps how many rounds of IVF you are willing to have. By acknowledging your worry you can comfort each other and make financial plans together.
Research fertility treatment together
It is important to be equally informed so that you can collaborate and make decisions together. It is also important for both people to feel equally a part of the process.
Find time to take a break
If you schedule in time to talk about the treatment and time to relax you can make a conscious effort to give yourself a mental break from the intensity of the issues you are facing. It is vital to change the subject sometimes and do an activity, or go away on a mini-break to re-energise.
Sometimes it helps to use a mediator when talking about painful issues. This is someone who is not a friend or family member so they remain unbiased, and can really encourage communication.
If you both take steps to remain strongly connected with your partner throughout your difficulties to conceive, you will be able to build better mental health, a stronger resilience and be less afraid of an uncertain future.