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A male perspective on infertility
The consequences of infertility can affect both men and women but often we forget how the fertility treatment roller coaster can impact men too. Here a previous IVF patient gives a male perspective on infertility and his tips to support a partner through treatment.
Having spent a good proportion of my life avoiding getting women pregnant, I assumed that trying for a baby would be a fun and straightforward process – however, I proved to be majorly wrong on both counts! After trying for well over a year my wife visited the GP and was told that we could have tests to investigate further, which we did and overall these were ‘Satisfactory’. Still no progress and then it was a case of considering IVF. My wife was in shock and this is where the romantic dream folded as IVF was not how either of us imagined conceiving a child and it was going to take some getting our heads around emotionally, practically and financially. For my wife, shock turned to distress as she began to painfully assess why we were in this situation and to research what our options were. As a Project Manager by profession, this turned into a major research and planning exercise!
For what it’s worth here is ‘A Guy’s Guide to supporting your partner through fertility treatment’:
#Tip No.1: Agree your approach
Share the research work in hand and agree when and how you will update each other – Find a time that is convenient for you both and when you can give it your full attention. Open Days and subsequent appointments with Consultants become the next stage and can start to encroach on your valuable weekend time. However, they can be informative and your instinct is a useful guide with such matters, so try and go along together.
#Tip No.2: Go the Open Days together where possible and ask questions
Once you have chosen your clinic, things start to get more personal, blood tests, drug protocols and scans will start to fill your calendar. My wife was happy to do much of this on her own and I went along to most of the scans for additional support. Sometimes she would feel emotional if the results weren’t what we were expecting and what is often described as an ‘emotional rollercoaster’ begins. Unfortunately, there is not a standard operating manual for handling this, all you can do is roll with it and accept it as part of the process, understanding that it’s the same for most people.
#Tip No. 3: Develop you own Support Network
During this time, it’s important for you to be able to let off steam with others that you feel are supportive of your overall plans. Give some thought to who you both tell about your fertility plans and how this is relayed. Treat the use of social media with caution. If like for us, your treatment takes a few attempts before it is successful, it is important that you take some time out every now and again for that holiday or event to stay connected as a couple. ‘Project Baby’ can be overwhelming at times.
#Tip No. 4. Look after your relationship during treatment
This works both ways and can often be taken for granted. Sometimes I felt like a financier of someone else’s pregnancy and this made me feel detached from the process, as it was all about the mother and less so about the father. I don’t think was intentional on anybody’s part, it was just that way. Your sex life will understandably change and being open to communication about this is key.
#Tip No 5. Keep a 360 perspective on what’s going on and take care of yourself
I found going to the gym helped to clear my head and it felt that I was doing something healthy as part of my side of the deal. I watched what I ate and was careful with alcohol. I think my wife appreciated this and was comforted that I was doing all that I could to help move things along. Sometimes going through treatment can feel like walking through mud, but things can turn on a sixpence and the present soon becomes the past.
For more information on the emotional impact of infertility on men you can visit the Fertility Network website. The LWC runs a monthly support group for both men and women who are going through fertility treatment. These sessions are a fantastic opportunity to meet others in a similar situation and get some well needed support For more help and advice or to discuss attending the support group, please contact our resident fertility coach Cindy at Cindy.Charles@londonwomensclinic.com.