Common fertility questions

1. What is infertility?
Infertility is diagnosed when a couple has tried unsuccessfully for longer than a year to conceive.  Normally, a couple will fall pregnant within six-12 months of trying to conceive (TTC).  If you are over the age of 35, then a doctor should be consulted after 6 months of trying.

2. What is recurrent miscarriage?
Recurrent miscarriage is the diagnosis when a person has miscarried three times without having had a successful pregnancy.  There could be a number of causes and once a person has miscarried three times, the doctor does tests to determine the possible cause.  The reason for waiting until three miscarriages have happened is that it is unfortunately common for a person to suffer one or two losses before having a child.

3. Does stress cause infertility or miscarriage?
There are many different causes of infertility and pregnancy loss.  A common fear is that somehow the stress that you are under has or will cause you to not fall pregnant, or to miscarry.  Stress is an almost unavoidable part of our modern lifestyles.  There are conflicting studies on this topic – some say that stress has no bearing on IVF success (Boivin, 2010), while others studies show that stress management interventions boost fertility outcomes (Domar, 2009).  While normal to elevated stress levels won’t cause a miscarriage or prevent you from falling pregnant, now is a great time to consider how to deal with your stressors healthily, who can help support you emotionally and who you would prefer to ‘let loose’.

4. Will my partner still love me if I can’t have kids?
I do not know of anyone who got into a relationship purely because of breeding ability.  This is not something that you chose or caused, and it affects both of you.  Fertility challenges often create feelings of guilt, shame, fear and doubt about self-worth.  Talk to your partner as honestly about your fears as possible, and ask the hard questions such as “does this change how you feel about me?”.  It’s terrifying to say it out loud, and the feeling of relief that you feel once it isn’t festering inside you is absolutely wonderful.

5. How do I support my partner?
Firstly, realise that this is going to be an emotional time for the person who has received the diagnosis.  Reassure the person of your feelings and open channels of communication without forcing the issue if the other person doesn’t want to talk about it immediately.  Although it may seem like the safer option, don’t withdraw.  Do research as a couple, and discuss things openly and with respect.  Make sure that your partner knows that you don’t blame them - it is likely that the person will be heaping blame on their own shoulders and feeling as though they have let you down or disappointed you greatly.  Be as gentle as possible without avoiding the issue, trying to ‘fix it’ or treading on egg shells.

What many of my clients have found helpful is just having someone to be sad with.  This is a deeply personal grief that is often not recognised by friends around you (and depending on your choices, they may not even know what you are going through as a couple) – you and your partner may be the only two who will know what is going on behind closed doors.

I have clients who feel it is incredibly helpful to be able to share the grief, and know that the other person is feeling as sad.  If you are not sure whether your partner needs you to be strong, or for you to be miserable with him/her ask.
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