Men, Fertility and Emotions
The most common line I hear from the male partners of a couple going through fertility treatment is: My role is to support my wife/partner/girlfriend as she is the one coping with all the procedures. Most of the investigations, procedures and appointments are focused on the female partner of the couple. Fertility treatment takes a huge physical hormonal and emotional toll on the woman. The procedures and medications for the most part involve the woman. Sometimes the man feels like he is left to fend for himself, to slot into being the support for his partner.
Yet fertility treatment does affect men. The whole emotional rollercoaster ride is usually at the end of perhaps years of trying, failing, trying again, hoping that this month it will be different. Years of watching their loved partner be disappointed, sad, depressed, struggling with a myriad of different emotions, whilst fulfilling the role of support. So how does a man find help and emotional support during the continuing emotional rollercoaster that is Fertility Treatment?
Talking may not seem an obvious source of support to many men. When I ask couples if they talk to others outside of their relationship, about the treatment, men often answer no. They explain that they are there to support their partner, not to burden others with their emotions.
Fertility treatment puts both of the couple in a passive role, once you have put yourself in the care of the clinic, you are not in charge of what is going on. The clinic may advise you to eat well, stop drinking, etc etc. But control over the situation, you do not have.
So, how can men help themselves to balance their emotions and feelings with the role of support for their partner? Below are a few tips to help men cope with fertility treatment. They may not all work but hopefully one may just give men that space we all need to process what is happening during stressful times.
- Recognise that you too are undergoing fertility treatment. Your partner is undergoing the physical procedures, medications etc but you too are part of that
- You are allowed to feel lost, out of control. These feelings are normal. You will have your own coping strategies that you have used over the years when life has been hard. It’s worth sitting down and thinking about how you normally cope with stress and anxiety.
- Think about what you can control. There are other parts of your life that may be taking a back seat during the treatment. Look at other areas, be organised, take back control where you can.
- Self-care….so very important. What do you do to look after yourself? Do you exercise? Go out with a friend? Soak in hot baths? Read a good book, there are many ways of caring for yourself. It isn’t being selfish; how can you care for your partner if you are frazzled and anxious?
- When you awake in the morning, take the time to ask yourself what can I do for me today? Even if it’s just half an hour…. you need this to balance yourself.
- Finally, remember we all of us only have so much energy when we awake in the morning. Whether that energy is used physically, emotionally, or intellectually, it will be used up. Think carefully where you want to use your energy. You will need some for you and some for your partner.
- Talk talk talk. It may not be easy at first but keeping the lines of communication open is paramount. Fertility treatment can become all encompassing, but it’s still important to talk about yourself, how you feel, what is causing anxiety, worry or stress. If you feel your partner has enough to cope with, that’s fine, find someone else but remember, your partner will know and it’s important not to leave her feeling left out.
If you do find yourself struggling, becoming overwhelmed, please seek professional help. The British Association of Infertility Counsellors hold a register of qualified Fertility counsellors that can help you through.