Fertility, having a family and being a parent are huge parts of our ideology growing up. We are flooded images of the happy family unit with 2.4 children and a happy, safe home environment.
But what if these best laid plans don’t come to fruition? What if your fertility becomes a problem, and how can you expect to be emotionally affected?
The stress of fertility treatment
Fertility treatment can be a very difficult time for any couple to cope with and can feel like a never-ending cycle of timetabled sex, calendars and pregnancy tests that lead to the soaring highs of expectation and crushing lows of disappointment when pregnancy is not forthcoming.
It can be easy for everyday life to become secondary to the schedule that such treatments such as these put on you. Holidays can be put off or cancelled, work commitments suffer, and other opportunities can be ignored due to the all-consuming quest for pregnancy.
The negative emotions associated with the peaks and troughs of such treatments make it easy for negative emotions such as sorrow, frustration and anger to bleed into all areas of life.
The Psychological Effects of Fertility Issues
Issues with fertility can be an emotional minefield for both parties.
Most women are raised with the aspiration to become mothers in the future, an idea that is perpetuated by the media, advertising, and peers. Motherhood can be a real cornerstone of some women’s idea of a woman and any threat to this may affect their self-image.
Infertility has links with and can lead to depression. This expectation links in with the loss of the family you had imagined having with your partner, and can repeat month on month as the attempts continue and gather momentum. As your fertility problems continue you may begin to become more active in your attempts to conceive by using products such as pregnancy predictor kits and should this not prove to be successful yet more expectations are not met about what should have worked and where you should be.
This can also foster feelings that your body has let you down and betrayed you by denying you the baby you so desperately crave. Also, the menstrual cycle can serve as painful monthly reminder of yet another month that has passed without pregnancy and can lead to extended stretches of low mood or depression.
Friends and Family: Hindrance and Help
These feelings of loss and failure can be further exacerbated when friends and family members, particularly siblings, begin to start their own families, and this can be an especially trying time for those having trouble conceiving.
It can be easy to feel left out or that everyone around you is either happily pregnant or already has healthy, happy children. This can seem like a double-pronged attack as you are struggling with your fertility those around you may have their time and energy taken up by their new families and you may feel you have lost some of your important support network.
An associated issue is that of those around you asking you when you are going to start a family. It can be easy to see these people as nosey or unthinking for constantly hounding you for an answer regarding you planned parenthood, however, it is important to remember that these people are removed from the situation and may not be aware of the problems you are experiencing. Of course that doesn’t change the impact that such questions can have on both you and your partner. If you are comfortable taking about the fertility problems and feel ready to talk to someone about it then be open about it, talking through your feeling and emotions can be a huge relief.
Male Fertility Issues
Although men, on the whole, are not pressured to the same degree in their formative years, an elusive pregnancy, subsequent treatment and the emotions that all that brings can be extremely difficult for him to deal with. This is particularly true when the infertility problems are linked to a low or poor sperm count. Problems may include blockages in the ejaculatory duct which can prevent sperm from mixing with seminal fluid, irregular sperm which may be unusually shaped have poor motility the affects fertilization or Variococele (enlarged vein) which raise the temperature of the scrotum and can affect sperm production. All of these problems can be treated if the right help is sought. Virility is often a large part of male identity and this coupled with an assumed need to be strong for their partner can lead to suppression and internalisation of negative feelings centred around blame and failure.
Sex and Timetabling
It can be easy when undergoing fertility treatment for sex to become yet another schedule to adhere to, taking all the romance and spark out of lovemaking, some treatments even go so far as to require you to have sex at specific times. Taking some time out from the seemingly never ending regime of your treatments can be extremely important as times like this, it is crucial that the love and connection that brought you to the place of wanting to have children is still there should you be successful in your attempts. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourselves, to reconnect and reignite that spark.
Cost of Treatment
Another source of possible conflict between a couple undergoing treatment is that of money. The cost of living is often difficult for couples to manage and can lead to arguments and extreme pressure on the relationship. This coupled with their intense longing for a child, and the subsequent frustrations, plus the high cost of some treatments can drive a relationship to breaking point. As difficult as it may be you may need to face facts before you start the treatment. Take some time out and have a full and frank decision about the financial implications of what you are about to undergo, sit down and talk through your finances and make a financial plan. Always try to keep your finances in mind, which can be difficult at such an emotional time, and try not to let your desire for a family overreach your financial parameters. Set a monetary limit and stick to it.
When to call it a day
A particularly difficult time for people undertaking fertility treatments is when repeated treatments are unsuccessful and they have to think about bringing their attempts to a close.
Calling time on the dream of a family is a hugely difficult decision to make and can be pushed out of mind and not discussed. But it is important to remember that to fully move forward with your life you will have to accept and make peace with the fact that you may not have a biological child.
Communication is paramount to negotiating the minefield of fertility treatment and is of the utmost importance at a time such as this. One of the couple may be more ready to accept that the time is right to bring things to an end, but through open communication between the couple and the medical professionals involved a mutual decision can be reached.
Always remember that it is your decision to make and that you will know when the time is right for you to accept the situation.
By Marc Brammer