If you’ve been trying to get pregnant with no success, it’s natural to worry about your fertility. “There can be a sense of urgency if it’s not happening as quickly as you expected,” says Mary Gillis, a registered clinical counsellor in Vancouver who focuses on reproductive issues.
Although doctors don’t consider your fertility to be problematic until you’ve gone a year without trying (or six months if you’re over 35), if you feel worried at any time, it’s important to talk to your partner about it. “Together, you can decide if you’re ready to see a doctor about fertility testing and what your next steps will be,” says Gillis.
Here are some strategies to help you have a successful conversation with your partner about your fertility concerns.
Time it right You might not want to ambush your partner with a talk like this when they’re on their way out the door in the morning or after a long day at the office. “Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and free of distractions,” says Gillis. You know your partner best, so consider whether they might want a heads-up on a serious discussion like this.
“Keep in mind that your partner might not know how concerned or upset you are, so this could blindside them,” she says. Before you initiate the conversation, make a plan for yourself about what you’d like to discuss. Is this just a chance to share and vent your worries, or are you hoping to make an action plan with next steps?
Avoid the blame game Saying something like “Why don’t you seem as worried as I feel?” can make your partner feel like the conversation is a personal attack. To avoid this, Gillis recommends sticking to I-messages like “I’m starting to feel nervous because it’s not working out the way I expected and I’m wondering if we can talk about this more.” Personal statements put less pressure on your partner because you’re conveying what you’re feeling as opposed to launching into research you may have done online or grilling them about what they’re thinking or feeling.
It can be a difficult discussion, but try to keep it upbeat if possible. “It’s important to start on a positive note,” she says. “Acknowledge and appreciate your partner, and remember that the goal is to have a baby together because of your love for each other—you don’t want this to pit you against each other.”
Think of yourselves as a team One of your first goals should be to understand the issue better together, so you may want to start your conversation by saying “I’m concerned and I think I we should discuss this with my doctor.” Consulting your family doctor to rule out low sperm count, problems producing eggs, hormone imbalances and other common stumbling blocks to conception is a good place to start, says Gillis. If you think you may need to see a fertility specialist, this will require a referral. The clinic is likely to have a waiting list, so it’s important to get the ball rolling, especially if you’re over 35.
If your chat doesn’t give you the comfort you expected or help you figure out your next steps or if your partner doesn’t share in your concerns, you might consider some professional help to move the conversation forward. “Talking to a counsellor together can help normalize the situation and discuss all of your medical options, as well as how far you’re willing to take this,” says Gillis. You don’t want to get ahead of yourselves, but she says it’s important to figure out early on where you both stand on issues like the cost of IVF if needed. This might not be a topic you need to broach yet, but it should be on your radar if you decide to see a fertility specialist. “That’s when friction happens in a relationship: when your perspectives are at odds,” she says.
Get real about grief Be honest about how you really feel and know that it’s OK to be sad. “For women who are hoping to conceive, a period can be the death of a hope and dream and experienced as a mini grief cycle,” says Gillis. Sharing these feelings with your partner can help you get through it. If your partner is having trouble supporting you through this, the advice of a fertility counsellor might be helpful.
If either of you has a history of depression or anxiety, talk to each other about any changes in mood or behaviour that you notice in yourself or the other person. It can be helpful to learn breathing and mindfulness techniques to help manage the stress and be on the alert for negative self-talk. “Women can get into cycles of shaming self-talk about their bodies, and it’s great when a partner can help reframe it into kinder thoughts and be really supportive in that way,” she says. “It’s important to know that infertility concerns don’t have to pull you apart—partners can grow closer because of them.”
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