Stress can affect us at any stage of life.
However, when we start talking about infertility stress, women generally report that they are dealing with significantly higher levels.
Much of the research as to why this is, focusses on women’s experiences of infertility and how they in turn cope as they undergo IVF. The experience for a male partner is not yet well researched or documented.
So, what generally happens for the man in our life and why?
Often male partners feel and manage their emotional responses to challenging life events differently to women.
Many women want to talk about the difficulties, the distress, the emotions, they may want to review the issue, seek reassurance about the plans, and think ahead about the ‘what ifs’.
This can feel overwhelming for some men.
Men are often quite solution focused and want to be able to manage and respond and resolve the problem quickly, without going over and over the same issues, feelings or worries multiple times.
While this statement above is quite generalist, there are two key reasons to keep in mind:
Firstly, it can be easy for a male partner to feel less visible during infertility, in the background trying their best to support their loved one through the experience.
Secondly, it can be harder for men to find a way to share their experiences as they struggle with reality of infertility and navigating the medical interventions, all while witnessing the impact upon their partners.
Seeking social support and planning for problem solving and asking for what you need and want from each other is key. Ensuring you each have trusted others (friends/family) to rely on for social and emotional supports can be a positive to help reduce the impacts of stress of infertility on relationships.
In part two we discuss stress of the situation, stigma and sexual health.
For more information on this topic
B.D. Peterson, C.R. Newton, K.H. Rosen, G.E. Skaggs, Gender differences in how men and women who are referred for IVF cope with infertility stress, Human Reproduction, Volume 21, Issue 9, Sep 2006, Pages 2443–2449, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/del145
Esther Perel https://www.estherperel.com/