When tackling infertility, you will be flooded with a variety of treatment options. The field of ART is vast, and depending on the nature of your problem , the treatment choices can vary all the way from simple ovulation induction with clomiphene to IVF and surrogacy.
With the advances in the field of ART, there is a solution for almost any kind of infertility problem you face, but being open to different treatment options is not easy for everybody. Not everyone is comfortable in subjecting themselves or their spouse to treatments which are not agreeable to them physically or mentally. Financial conditions, social, cultural and religious limitations and fear of medical procedures all play a major role in deciding whether to pursue a particular infertility treatment or not.
Infertility is more of an emotional ailment than a physical one ! The unquenchable desire for a baby combined with social and peer pressure are the most important driving forces which compel couples to undergo different infertility treatments. As long as both partners' couples are on the same page regarding pursuing a particular fertility treatment option, everything is well and fine. But what happens when they do not see eye to eye about their options ? What happens when one of the partner wants to put an end to the infertility treatment and move on with life, while the other person could not imagine a life without a baby ?
Infertility becomes easier to handle when there is understanding between the partners. When one of the partners is ready to move heaven and earth in order to realize their dream of having a baby, and the other cannot understand this overwhelming craving to procreate, then the relationship gets strained. The stress of infertility combined with a strained relationship can play havoc ! There are couples who decide to end their marital relationship because unable to bear the brunt of the assisted baby-making journey !
When you and your spouse do not agree about treatment options what can be done ? How can you find a balance so that your relationship goes on smoothly ? Should one person sacrifice their desire for the sake of the other ?
But before going into what can be done, let us see where the problem arises. Below are the some of the common reasons why a spouse might not be ready to undergo fertility treatment or might be uncomfortable pursuing a particular treatment option :
This happens during the initial stage of infertility diagnosis. The natural reaction from many would be "I am healthy and normal, I will not undergo any treatment - we will have our baby without any treatment !" Many will want to bu ry their head in sand and try to pretend that everything is well and good. A man normally equates his fertility to virility. He panics that because of the diagnosis of infertility, his manliness is being questioned ! Likewise, a woman also thinks that her feminity is suspect if she cannot conceive ! This mental make-up makes the diagnosis of infertility impossible to accept , and as a result some people might vehemently refuse to go through any kind of infertility treatment.
Fear of invasive procedures and injections
Infertility treatments demand a lot of blood tests, use of injectable medicines and sometimes invasive procedures for diagnosis and treatment. As a result people who are phobic about injections and surgeries become jittery to carry on with infertility treatment.
Concern about the effect of infertility treatment on prospective children
There are lots of misconception surrounding infertility treatment and its effect on children born out of such treatments. This might create fear in the mind of your partner and he or she might consider such fear as a valid reason for avoiding infertility treatments.
Worry about the enormous cost associated with infertility treatment
In most parts of the world, infertility treatments are very costly, and can be a very big economic burden for the family. It can lead to emptying of your bank balance and can leave you financially insecure. This can create enormous mental pressure for the bread-winner of the family who would naturally want refuse to undergo costly treatments where the outcome is always uncertain
Social, cultural and religious limitations
Third party reproductive assistance such as using donor sperms, donor eggs, donor embryos and surrogacy is banned in certain religious groups. Social and cultural restrictions will also play a major role in deciding whether a couple is willing to undergo a particular fertility treatment or not.
Fed up of infertility treatments
Fertility treatments consume lots of time as well as physical and emotional energy. There is also a lot of uncertainty inherent in such treatments - there is no guarantee that you will end up pregnant after spending so much of your time, money and energy. The stress of infertility treatment can make life lacklustre. This can create an aversion towards infertility treatments !
So when a situation arises where you and your spouse do not agree about infertility treatment options, how can you deal with it ? How to constructively resolve your disagreement ?
When disagreement arises in a marital relationship there are three ways to solve it :
- End the disagreement by agreeing with the other person's choice
- Coming to a mutually acceptable solution
- Living with the difference
- Separating and ending the relationship
When one of the partners does not want to pursue IVF and the other wants to leave no stone unturned in order to have a baby, but decides to end the conflict by agreeing to the option of not undergoing IVF (either out of love or out of coercion !) , it appears that the disagreement is solved and all is well. But, this kind of conflict solving usually causes lots of bitterness and may ultimately lead to the loss of intimacy ! Even if a partner sacrifices his/her wish out of love, it will never be a creative experience because "baby lust" is much stronger than anyone could imagine. The urge to have a baby is very hard to sacrifice and the partner who decided to "sacrifice" will always regret his/her decision, whenever they see a "cute little family"! These "solutions" can lead to your marital relationship breaking at some point or the other !
So, how can you come to a mutually acceptable solution ?
Have an open mind
Most problems in life become difficult to tackle if we close our mind to new information and ideas. Having a closed mind also makes it impossible for you to understand and appreciate the goodness in your partner's point of view. It also becomes tiresome and frustrating for your partner to have a rational argument with you , because you are incapable of seeing things from their perspective. When you adamantly hold on to your views , there will be no possibility of a fair argument which involves give and take. For example, if you believe that taking infertility treatment increases your risk of having children with mental and physical disabilities , this is a very valid concern. But, having an open mind will help you to judge the validity of your belief with the help of scientific information, and by talking to people who are better informed than you are ! Closed-mindedness when facing infertility may curtail your treatment options and hence your opportunity to have a baby. It might also leave your partner wounded forever !
"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in." - Issac Asimov
Have a heart to heart talk !
Try to be expressive and talk openly about what is in your mind. It is very difficult for your partner to read your mind if you are not ready for healthy communication. The worst enemy to a good communication is emotional outbursts (crying, name-calling, slamming doors, threatening) ! Disagreement regarding infertility treatment is a highly emotional topic, so make sure you find a good time to talk about it. Do not raise the issue when your partner is tired, upset or irritated. Explain clearly - why you are not ready to agree about a particular treatment option; what your fears and concerns are ; how avoiding the particular treatment option will be beneficial for you both (not only for you !). Try to analyse the pros and cons of your decision rationally. Remember, communication is a two way street. It is very important to allow your partner to talk and try to be heedful! Listen to your partner's concern and respect their fears and insecurity. Do not interfere when your partner is talking; do not discourage them when they express their point of view and never be sarcastic! Never think that the problem is with the other person and you are always right! I would like my partner to sit close to me, hold my hand, give me a few hugs so that I feel the warmth and kindness. Such intimate, non-sexual contact can make the communication much easier by adding lubrication and hence can make it very honest too ! Mutually acceptable solutions can never be reached without proper communication and deep understanding of the conflict. Once you understand where the conflict lies , it is easier to reach a solution.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
- Stephen R. Covey
Respect each other's differences !
If you allow yourself to see other person's point of view, you will naturally respect their fears and concerns. Their concern may appear very silly and insignificant for you, but you have to understand that it really bothers your partner ! For example, the fear of injection or surgery can be a powerful deterring force for undergoing particular treatments. Instead of laughing at it and ignoring it, try to ease their fears by showing them how little the injection needles are ! You can also show them educational videos, where your partner could watch how the injections are administered or how a particular surgery is performed. This will help in reducing their fears and concerns about the treatment ! When your partner is worried about the financial aspect of a particular treatment, please respect this - remember, that your financial security is as important as having a baby ! Do not get emotional and blame that your partner for being money-minded ! Respecting each other's concern and giving proper importance to their thought process plays a very important role in amicably solving the disagreement.
To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater. - Author Unknown
Be well informed !
It is very important to be well-informed about your treatment options. Learn all you can ! This will help in thinking clearly and agree or disagree with your partner in a rational manner. Knowing the pros and cons of different treatment options will also aid in solving the disagreement that arise between you and your partner in a wise manner, so that you can reach a consensus which benefits both !
Find a good counsellor
If all your attempts in arriving at a mutually acceptable solution fail, it is wise to turn to a counsellor who is knowledgeable about infertility and the treatment options that are available. A counsellor can give a rational and impartial view of the situation which can help both of you to see the truth and resolve the conflict amicably.
Going through infertility is an excellent time to understand your partner and build a strong, everlasting relationship. Relationships actually get stronger during a time of crisis provided you have the maturity to make use of your difficult marital times constructively ! Disagreements between couples are very common when grappling with infertility, but make sure you disagree in an agreeable way. It is important to "fight fairly" and find a way which will lead to your most important goal - a baby ! Please do not "sacrifice" your desires for each other's sake - not all sacrifices create a happy ending. Make sure that the decision you take about the treatment options will not leave your partner hurt and wounded for life ! In your pursuit for having a baby do not lose the essential ingredients in your relationship - LOVE, RESPECT AND MUTUAL ADMIRATION!
This is an excerpt from our forthcoming, book, The Expert Patient's Guide to IVF. This being authored by our expert patient, Manju and me.
Her blog is at www.myselfishgenes.blogspot.com