Men And IVF
IVF treatment is a physically and emotionally draining experience for women, but also for men. Often, because the female partner undergoes the drug treatment and the physical procedures, the strain on her husband or boyfriend can be overlooked. Women are generally quite upset when IVF fails and they don't conceive at the end of a cycle of treatment. Some women feel emotionally devastated, and are confused by their male partner's lack of an equally strong reaction. This can lead to misunderstanding and perhaps even resentment between partners. Research has found, however, that men also experience feelings of anger, frustration and even grief when IVF fails, but don't express it in the same way that women do. Also, more male partners than female partners have reported feelings of extreme worry during the IVF process. If you are going through IVF and your man is behaving out of character or is clearly under stress, here are some of the possible reasons why...
Loss Of Masculinity
As a woman, you may have feelings of inadequacy due to your inability to conceive. Don't forget that your male partner may be experiencing the same thing. This could lead to a perceived loss, in his mind, of his masculinity, especially if the fertility problem is related to the quality of his sperm. Even if the fertility problem lies with you, he could be afraid of the "stigma" attached to IVF, and what other people might think. He could also be worried about whether or not he will be able to produce semen on demand - exactly when it is needed - which is, of course, an essential part of the IVF procedure.
Loss Of Control
During IVF you may feel like your body is no longer your own. Your fertility, your future, in fact, is largely in the hands of the doctors treating you. Your partner could be experiencing a similar sense of loss of control and frustration. This might be especially hard for him to accept, if up until now he has seen it as his job to take care of you and provide a secure future for you both.
He could simply be really, really worried about you. You are taking all kinds of fertility drugs which may or may not have some adverse effects on your health, you're probably very tired and you have a lot invested emotionally in this process. He's probably worried about what will happen if you don't get pregnant and maybe even what will happen if you do (given the risk of multiple pregnancy associated with IVF). He might also be feeling the financial strain and is worried about providing for you and, hopefully, a baby. IVF is an expensive treatment.
What To Do
Both you and your man should take advantage of the counseling available at your IVF clinic. You need to make time to talk to each other about the experience of IVF but also for maintaining some quality of life and doing the things you enjoy together. You can help to increase his sense of control by encouraging him to get informed about the procedure and what he can expect to happen. The information on this website would be a great place for him to start. You can also minimize stress during the treatment cycle by preparing for important decisions in advance. For example, you should talk about whether or not you want to transfer all the fertilized embryos to your uterus or, if you do get pregnant with multiples, whether or not you would agree to a multi-fetal reduction.
The Good News
Although nearly all couples say that IVF puts them under a certain degree of stress, many see an improvement in their relationship during and after treatment. With good communication and understanding, the experience of working through the cycle together may help bring you and your partner closer.