“During the three years we were trying to get pregnant, we could not think or talk about anything else. It ruled our lives. I lost those 3 years of my life.” - husband interviewee on trying to conceive and infertility.
There is a good deal of advice out there on how to keep the 'sexy in sex' while trying to conceive. The expectation to ‘just have fun and relax’ is like most things in life, easier said than done. When getting pregnant starts to take longer than anticipated, sex on a schedule may not only lead to taking the 'sexy out of sex', but also lead to stress and tension. During an interview on personal experiences, while trying to conceive, one husband reported, "out of all the stresses a couple can face in a marriage, infertility is the number one. Hands down."
How do you stay connected and get through this difficult time and still enjoy each other? We sat down with Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Carolyn Aibel, to talk about techniques to keep the relationship strong when trying to get pregnant turns from being a joyous time to a desperate time.
Relieve Some of the Pressure:
Dr. Aibel explains that when you have been trying to conceive, by month 6, by month 10, by month 20... of course you may not be in the mood anymore. If you are still trying to hide that this is not fun, it may help to acknowledge, that yes, this isn't fun anymore.
She advises to sit down with your partner and talk about what you want to do about it. "It’s ok to acknowledge how stressful and unsexy it is to have sex on a schedule intertwined with fears of infertility," says Dr. Aibel, “Everyone’s solution will be different. It may help to watch porn together and talk about fantasies. Or it may simply be to give yourself a mental break from making sex sexy. It can be whatever you both need it to be.”
Read writer, Brandi Koskie's, Personal Advice on
Keeping the Romance Alive while Trying to Conceive
Empathy is Magical
During interviews on relationship experiences, while trying to conceive, we heard partners say: I was so caught up in my own struggle, I didn’t realize my partner was suffering too. One woman shared, “I was so sad about my inability to get pregnant without intervention and obsessed with making a baby, I forgot to ask my husband how he felt. Later, after we had our first child through IVF, he mentioned something about how hard it was for him to learn that his sperm count was low. I felt terrible that I never thought to ask him how he was feeling.”
Dr. Aibel says many couples start to feel like a failure and question their bodies when they aren’t getting pregnant each month. Men and women may experience these feelings in different ways. Dr. Aibel advises, "if you are feeling insecure about your fertility, tell your partner about your fears. You may be surprised that they feel the same way or have some fears or concerns that will help the two of you to understand what you are both going through."
One woman shared her experience when her husband started to have performance anxiety. She said, "I tried to hide my disappointment but [I] was so upset with him. I knew it wasn't his fault, but I couldn't help but be terribly disappointed. It felt like we were starting to grow apart."
The couples were so intensely privately suffering, they lost focus on being each other's supporters. Try not to let that happen in your relationship. Talk about your feelings so that you can help each other through any fears and concerns. Show each other that you hear and understand what each of you is going through, even though it may be different.
Whatever you do, be sure to reassure each other that you still love your partner and find them sexy no matter what happens.
Keep in mind the bigger picture, which is to be a family. Stay engaged with each other by keeping up the same activities as before such as going to BBQs with friends, going on date nights and traveling together. Showing your support for each other may be required in different ways.
One man shared that, “there were several months after we had sex during her fertile window that she didn’t want to have sex. I was so bummed out for myself that I didn’t pay attention to the fact that she was terrified that she was going to get her period.”
For the husband, it may be marking his calendar each month when the two-week wait is up to show his wife that he is involved in what she is going through. For the wife, it may be making love to her husband outside the fertile window to show him that she still desires him for more than just his sperm.
Bonding and sexy time outside the fertile window is an important time. You both need to stay engaged in what each other need during this time and it may be a matter of compromise. If one of you wants a break and the other wants sex, it is time to chat about how to meet each other's needs. If depression or disappointment is starting to interfere with making love to your partner or doing things you used to enjoy, consider support groups or therapy.
Focus on being a couple and do not lose sight of the relationship. “Think of sex as more than creating a baby but also as nurturing your relationship," - Dr. Aibel.
Education is Key for Both Partners
"One in six couples in Australia use IVF, and one in every 25 Australian children are now born as a result of IVF. In Denmark one in 15 children are IVF babies. Yet it is questionable whether people are first given good advice about the other more simple and inexpensive options available to them - including accurate knowledge about their exact fertile window" (source)
Sometimes it may feel that you are the only couple having fertility struggles, especially if family and friends are having babies. You may not be able to control when you get pregnant, but by educating yourselves, you may feel more empowered and less alone.
Since it falls on women to find the fertile window, they typically spend more time reading and educating themselves about the process than their partner. This may start to make you feel that you are more involved in the process. Sit down with your partner and show him what you are learning. Men, sit down with your partner and be ready to be engaged and bring questions of your own. By understanding the fertile window, you both will understand the feeling of urgency when it is go time and also understand that getting pregnant may take a long time.
The partner that said he lost three years of his life during infertility struggles mentioned the best thing they did for themselves was to talk to couples that had adopted. While this couple ended up getting pregnant naturally (after two failed IVF attempts), he said seeing his friends become parents through adoption helped him to realize that no matter what happend they could be parents.
Staying connected during this time may not be easy at all times, but it will help immensely to remain empathetic toward your partner, put effort into staying engaged with your partner, and educate yourselves on the process.
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