2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 03:30
The announcement of infertility is a hard shock for couples to take. It upsets life projects and calls identity into question. Difficulties conceiving also affect the self-esteem of men and women who experience them.
When a couple is having difficulty conceiving a child, they usually turn to a fertility clinic to make their desire for a child come true. Medically assisted procreation treatments (such as in vitro fertilization) are technical and medical feats that give hope to many couples and enable thousands of men and women to realize their parental project.
However, these treatments are often anxiety-provoking for couples expecting a child. In addition to being restrictive because of the many medical appointments and requiring great availability on the part of women and men, they put a strain on their bodies and generate a significant feeling of loss of control.
Expectations and Concerns
Men can feel anger, feelings offeelings of disappointment or even shame as well as incomprehension and a feeling of personal failure as illustrated by the words of Jean, 34 years old, in a relationship for 4 years, followed in a fertility clinic because of male infertility: “Learning that you are infertile is a shock, it's like a slap in the face. My manhood took a hit!”.
It is therefore for couples, a real obstacle course that begins, nourished by hope and expectations but also by worries and disappointments. Frustration often invades couples. The uncertainty of the results and the failures are destabilizing and refer to life without children. Just like for women, men are affected by the treatments and the failures which can be accompanied by depressive feelings as Jean underlines in his testimony: "I want to believe it, but when the result is negative, it is the disappointment. At first I thought it didn't affect me, I'm rather optimistic but I had a very bad experience of the third in vitro fertilization… I didn't want to do anything. I was depressed.”
Find your place
Men may find it difficult to fit into medically assisted reproduction pathways. Since women are more physically involved in treatments, men may feel left out, feel useless, and feel helpless, not knowing what to do to be more actively involved in the process. "In this type ofmedical procedure, women are subjected to heavy and complicated treatments. The woman is at the center of the treatment, which made me experience a feeling of uselessness. Even when I accompany my partner, I don't always feel like I belong,” says Jean when asked about his experience of fertility treatments.
Men can also feel guilty for not being able to allow their partner to get pregnant, watch her take hormones and suffer all the side effects. Many regret not being more involved in the medical process.
Compared to the cumbersome treatment that women undergo, men usually only have to undergo one physical step, which is to produce an ejaculate of semen; many men dread this step. They may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable in this situation, as Jean explains: “Producing a sperm sample at the clinic in the morning before going to work is ordinary! ". More rarely, men also speak of a feeling of fear and shame when they have to undergo surgery to remove sperm directly from their testicles.
If you are having difficulty finding your place and if you feel left out or even helpless in the face of fertility treatments, here are some ways that could help you better experience fertility treatments and regain a sense of control.
- When possible forYou could accompany your spouse to appointments and medical examinations or give her hormone injections.
- By listening to your spouse attentively (without necessarily giving advice) and by encouraging her, you make yourself available and thus take an important place in the process, but it is important not to forget yourself and to take care of you throughout the process.
- Put words on what you are going through and focus on activities that make you feel good and give you a sense of control are ways to better live this process. Everyone finds their place and adapts to this ordeal in their own way and according to their story.
Consulting a psychologist or participating in a support group for people who are having difficulty conceiving a child can also be an option to help you find personal balance throughout the assisted reproduction process.
For confidentiality reasons, the first name has been changed. This testimony was collected as part of a research project on the experience of fertility treatments.
By Marie-Alexia Allard, Ph. D, clinical psychologist, consultant at the Fertilys Clinic