Dealing with infertility

By admin
02 September 2014

How a couple copes with infertility can either strain or strengthen their relationship

Deciding to have a baby is an exciting time for most parents. But for some, conceiving turns into a heart-breaking challenge. To ensure you emerge from your infertility journey with your relationship intact and stronger, regardless of the outcome, we asked for expert tips from Kopano Mathabatha, a social worker at The Family Life Centre (FAMSA) in Johannesburg; DJ Macpherson and Pearl Ramotsamai, counsellors at FAMSA’s Durban branch; and DRUM medical columnist Dr Nomteto Ogundipe, who practises in Johannesburg.


1. Communicate: You know your partner or spouse best, so wait for the right time to start the conversation, says social worker Kopano. “Try at the time when your partner is most receptive. That shouldn’t be when he or she’s going through a tough time at work or is occupied with other activities. Make sure you have privacy and can talk without interruption.” It’s best to take a holistic approach, says DJ. “Talk to each other even before seeking outside counselling or medical help. Answer for yourself, ‘How important is it for me to have a child?’.”

2. Decide how far you will go: Infertility treatment can exhaust both your financial and emotional reserves, as you may have to deal with failed treatments or complications such as miscarriages. This can cause stress and depression. Some marriages end in divorce as a result of the strain of fertility treatments. Agree on how many treatments you’ll go for and how much money you will spend.

3. Seek counselling: As a couple, you may benefit from joint and individual counselling, DJ says. “Infertility is a very sensitive issue. It’s especially important to have someone who is patient and understands the male psyche. “Men are very proud and often feel they have an image to uphold. A man may interpret a medical test result, like a low sperm count, as criticism that he’s not ‘performing’.” Once you have talked to one another or sought counselling, ask your partner, “Are you willing to consider going for medical tests to see what’s preventing us from having a child?”

4. Avoid blame: Being diagnosed with infertility problems may be tough to deal with. Your partner may have low sperm count or your fallopian tubes may be blocked. Either way, it’s nobody’s fault so avoid blaming each other. Rather reassure your partner you’re “in it together”. Share your feelings and help each other work through the frustration and anger that may come as a result of your diagnosis.

5. Be a team: The infertility treatment can come with its own side-effects, while the disappointment of not falling pregnant can be heart-breaking. Deal with it as a unit, and be there to lift your partner’s spirits up when they are down. You come up with a tailor-made ‘package for yourself,” says DJ. “For example, focus on the romance in your relationship to take the pressure off ‘performing’ at certain times as set out by the medical treatment you are undergoing.”

6. Take a break: Sometimes couples find that they fall pregnant without trying, when they decide to just take a break for a while from treatment. Doctors attribute this to decreased stress during the time couples take a break, which has lead to natural conception for some couples.

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- Vida Li Sik

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