July 22, 2014
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Fertility


Talking to your partner and friends about fertility

Why it's important to talk to your partner

Trying to get pregnant without success can be a heartbreaking experience, and receiving a diagnosis of infertility can cause stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Discussing these feelings with your partner, as hard as that may seem, is important for maintaining a close relationship and avoiding feelings of resentment and blame.

Your partner will find it easier to cope if he or she is not the only outlet for your emotions. After all, your partner has a lot to process too. Remember that you and your partner may communicate differently, deal with emotions differently, and solve problems differently. As a result, they also tend to cope differently with conception difficulties. Being aware of these differences can help you avoid misunderstandings and enable you to experience your treatment journey as a team. Research has found that clarity in communication between you and your partner helps prevent negative psychosocial outcomes of infertility diagnosis and treatment. So even if things don't always go as hoped, you'll know what to do next and find the strength to continue. After all, you both want the same thing!

How partners can support each other

The partner diagnosed with the fertility problem tends to experience higher distress than the "fertile" partner, so it is important to continue to support one another as a couple rather than play the blame game. In a study done at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, researchers identified the qualities that women found most helpful in their partners during their experience with infertility. Listening was the most desirable trait: the women said they needed to feel supported by their partner when they expressed their frustrations and fears. High-quality communication was very important to them because it maintained their hope that treatment will be successful.

In situations where communication lines are not so open between partners, it is beneficial to participate in professionally directed infertility support groups. However, it remains essential for both partners to be involved in the fertility treatment process, even if infertility diagnosis has only been assigned to one partner. This is something that you are going through together.

Within your relationship, there are some specific ways you can be supportive for your partner through a difficult and stressful time. These may include respecting personal space, demonstrating that you have faith in the situation, working together to maintain balance, and trying to listen to your partner rather than focusing on "giving advice." If within your relationship you can maintain respect, positivity, teamwork, and listening skills, the overall impact this life event has on your relationship may ultimately be a positive, strengthening one.

On the other hand, do not allow the diagnosis and treatment of infertility to take over your life and your relationship. It is vital to maintain and appreciate the other aspects of your relationship independent of the infertility in order to remain optimistic about life in general. Continue to unite with social networks and avoid isolation.

Getting support from friends and the online community

It may be helpful to open up to a few close friends about your experiences; you may be surprised at the level of support you'll receive. If you are not comfortable speaking to friends about what you're going through but need an outlet other than your partner, there are a growing number of online forums dedicated to discussions surrounding infertility diagnosis and fertility treatments. Research indicates that online forums are very valuable; they allow for anonymous discussion with others experiencing similar feelings virtually any time of day, seven days a week.

Most important of all, don't put your life on hold. Continue to focus attention and energy on activities that you enjoy and find time to do things you like. Try to keep your personal goals in mind as you pursue this treatment.

Moving forward

With such a wide array of resources at your fingertips, maintaining diverse sources of support outside of the Internet may seem unnecessary, but face-to-face contact and communication with your partner continues to be of utmost importance. Make sure you maintain relationships with your partner and those around you while going through the treatment period. Your emotional well-being should be seen as a real part of your treatment. There are many fertility clinics that take a holistic approach to fertility treatment and recognize the range of the psychosocial and relational difficulties that come hand-in-hand with an infertility diagnosis.

Learn more about how to handle stress related to infertility.

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