If you’re struggling with infertility as a new couple, be aware that you’re not alone. Several women and 1 in 4 couples struggle to get or stay pregnant. Infertility has been a source of pain and struggle for as long as can be remembered.
So if you’re struggling with infertility for the first time, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, scared, and stressed. But you can do something to help you tackle your fears and concerns. Since the bottom line is to have a baby, retain your sanity, and protect your relationship from the effects of infertility.
If you’re facing infertility for the first time, there are basic things that you need to know to survive.
The first thing that you should realize is that it’s not your fault. As a couple, infertility is a shared problem between the man and the woman.
A common problem is that most couples who struggle with infertility don’t openly talk about it. So if you’re facing infertility for the first time, you may feel much more alone than you actually are.
You may mistakenly believe you’re the only couple among your friends facing this issue. If you’re not married but trying to get pregnant you might think you’re the only one walking this lonely road.
You are not alone, and it’s not your fault. This isn’t because of something you did or didn’t do. Don’t feel ashamed of waiting “too long” or of not leading a perfect lifestyle, either. Everyone makes mistakes, and people are waiting longer now than ever before to have children. Most are still able to have children.
So blaming yourself for your infertility doesn’t only feel bad, it can also undermine your ability to get help. In about a third of cases, infertility is due to a problem with the woman. In another third, the man is the problem. And in an additional third, it’s both the woman and the man. That means that if only the woman seeks testing or makes lifestyle changes, two-thirds of infertility cases will still go untreated.
Testing the man is often easier and less expensive than testing the woman. In most cases, testing begins with a semen analysis. So if you are ready to begin infertility treatment, treat it as a couple’s problem. And stay away from any doctor who wants only to test or treat the woman.
Making a baby is the most natural thing in the world, so you might think that it’s easy. Lots of “natural” things are hard — running, breastfeeding, giving birth, and parenting spring immediately to mind. We have to learn how to do lots of things that are natural, especially if they’re not going well without some education.
Lots of factors can lead to infertility. But if the sperm and egg aren’t coming together at the right time, no amount of medical treatment can compensate for this fact.
Some couples mistakenly believe that the woman is most fertile after ovulation. The day of ovulation and the day or two before are actually the most likely times for a couple to successfully make a baby. That’s because sperm can live in the reproductive tract for several days.
Other couples believe that ovulation always happens 14 days after the beginning of a woman’s last menstrual period. That’s also a myth. On average, ovulation happens after 14 days, but the average of all people tells you nothing about an individual! If you seek fertility treatment, your doctor may test to see if you’re ovulating at all, and can likely tell you the day of ovulation.
We’ve all heard stories of couples who tried for seven years and then had a “miracle” pregnancy. And we all know of people who pursued fertility treatments but got nowhere.
The overwhelming majority of couples can have a successful and healthy pregnancy with the right support and help. Infertility is not a curse. And it’s typically not incurable. It’s treatable, but only with the right help.
If you’ve tried for longer than a year, it’s time to get the help you need. Your primary care provider or gynecologist can begin the process. Typically, however, infertile couples need specialized help. An infertility specialist knows the latest research and uses the latest technology. That means you’ll get pregnant faster — and often, less expensively — than you would if you worked only with your usual doctor.
We all know that it pays to keep trying but it is not rewarding trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
If something is wrong, it won’t matter how many months you try, or how well you time intercourse. Making a baby requires functional sperm and eggs, and a healthy uterus and fallopian tubes.
If you just keep trying, you are likely only to experience frustration. What’s more, your fertility may be dwindling with each month that you try. Women are born with a finite number of eggs, and men’s sperm count and quality both tend to decline with time. Don’t waste time on a mission that may fail. So seek help if you’ve tried for longer than 12 months.
Fertility has a clock attached to it. For women particularly, it is time bound. Once a woman’s eggs are gone, they’re gone forever. Men, too, see age-related declines in fertility. This means that now is always the best time to have a baby — no matter when now is.
Perhaps you may want to wait, maybe until next month, next year, or next decade. Waiting only means you are waiting until there’s an even lower chance of a successful pregnancy. So when your sense of guilt and self-blame interfere with your ability to seek help, they can also undermine — your ability to become a parent.
The fact is that you do not really need to wait, neither should you punish yourself further in uncertainty.
You can get help here and now. If you’re under 35 and have tried more than a year, it’s time for you to get a referral. Couples over the age of 35 who have tried six months without success should seek help. This is rule of thumb.
The emotions are likely to rush.
Angry, sad, depressed, hopeless, resentful of your partner or family and much more.
You’ve probably felt it all, and much more. Infertility taps into that which is fundamentally human, your ability to connect with others, and to continue the lineage.
When this evolutionary drive is interrupted, the feelings can be overwhelming. In some couples struggling with infertility, the pain and endless waiting even trigger feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
As mentioned earlier, all these feelings are normal, whatever they are. Don’t feel ashamed of them or view them as a sign of weakness. Infertility is one of the most stressful experiences a couple can have.
But the fact that your feelings are normal, however, does not mean you have to suffer in silence. The right support can help you face your fears, manage your grief, and feel hopeful about the future — whether or not that future holds a child. But don’t lose hope and don’t be surprised either if your relationship is negatively affected as you try for a baby. The sex life and even the intimacy may take a hit, so it’s easy to feel like there’s little intimacy — or even for sex to become a painful reminder of that which you don’t have.
The point is that you may gradually find yourself losing interest in sex and this can spark further problems with intimacy, as well as resentment, since sex is the route having your having your much-needed baby.
So it’s hardly surprising that once in a while, you might have a tendency to take out your stress on your loved ones, particularly your spouse. You might believe the problem is something else, but if the issues coincide with infertility, it’s very likely that your stress and disappointment — not a fundamental issue with your relationship — are the real reasons you’re struggling in your relationship.
Snapping angrily at the people you love could occur unexpectedly even without you meaning to do it.
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the pain of infertility, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to the pain and endlessly suffer until a successful pregnancy happens.
Certain things that you can do to feel better, include you coming up with a few quick retorts for unhelpful or hurtful comments. This prevents you from having to think about them and feel angry at the moment.
You can tell the people that you trust what you’re facing — particularly if they keep asking you when you’re going to get pregnant.
Finding an outlet for your emotions helps but not by taking it out on others. Couples struggling with infertility sometimes find themselves spending every spare moment they have on trying for a pregnancy. They might read pregnancy sites and books, endlessly chart menstrual cycles, and otherwise turn pregnancy into a full-time job. You need a break. Invest in yourself. You might engage in a pastime or a hobby you love that completely takes your mind off your infertility issues. It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that it makes you feel good.
Exercise is good, it can stave off depression and also improve overall health, potentially helping you get pregnant — or getting your partner pregnant — faster.
Whatever that alleviates anxiety helps. Living in a constant state of waiting is often normal when you are battling infertility but that doesn’t mean you have to feel anxious about it.
Reach out to your partner. A loving relationship offers significant protection from the pain of infertility. For many infertile couples, the relationship is often the first thing to suffer. Find ways to support and love your partner.
Avoid viewing a pregnancy as the key to happiness. Your mental health matters. You shouldn’t walk the road of infertility alone. Every individual and every couple facing infertility needs and deserves support to navigate the pain. If you have loving, supportive friends or family, don’t shy away from leaning on them. They want to help.
You don’t have to go it alone.
Seek couples counseling. Therapy can help you find ways to support one another, talk about difficult emotions, and construct a comprehensive plan for tackling the pain of infertility.
Join a support group. There’s nothing quite like talking to people who have been there. You’ll get support, access to resources, and plenty of hope.
Infertility treatment may be more affordable than you think. Especially now that some financial institutions have products that can help you with payment and hopefully, some aspects of the treatment may be funded by health insurance in the future.
– Ajayi is a respected and renowned fertility expert