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Keeping The Love Alive In The Midst of Fertility Treatment

When sex goes from being fun to being work, it can play havoc with your relationship. Infertility treatment is often experienced as an emotional rollercoaster, typically becoming an ordeal that either makes or breaks a couple. How can you support and deepen your love for one another in the face of emotional and relational adversity?

1. Understand that the fertility challenge affects every aspect of life. No one can entirely escape from challenges affecting their self-image, intimacy with partner, and sexual lives.

2. Remember that you are in this together. Inform yourselves and learn about what you’re up against so that you can face it together. The more you practice this together, the stronger you’ll become as a couple. Be considerate and tender toward your partner.

3. Recognize that you and your partner may keep a different pace on the fertility journey, and be understanding about it. Keep up the communication and give each other the chance to say what is on his/her mind. Remind yourself that the main thing is your common goal of making a family together.

4. Talk openly with your partner: Sounds easy, right? Yet, so often couples are cocooned in their own emotional anguish, or uncertain about what to say to each other when encountering infertility, that they literally become “speechless,” or shut down. Moreover, infertility can stir up a host of other personal or psychological reactions, including depression and anxiety. It is critical to discuss common reactions such as disappointment, shock, fear, envy, guilty, and rage.

5. Balance the need for privacy & support: What to say to family and friends, if anything at all? It is indeed a delicate dance. Research shows that isolation can be detrimental for couple relationship in the middle of infertility treatment. What is the right amount of disclosure so that the couple may benefit from support from family and friends? Each couple will have to negotiate and determine what is acceptable to them. No matter what you decide to say to others, the main thing is that you two are on the same page. The ability to open up to family and friends can not only ease some of the pressure and isolation but also boost the couple’s morale and overall wellbeing.

6. Redefine intimacy to include conversation at the dinner table, cuddling under a blanket, watching a favorite movie, and a hearty hug. Tell your partner when you need that hug and when you are feeling a little deprived. Go out to dinner at your favorite spot and do not talk about fertility for even one second. Reminisce about how you met and why you made a commitment to be life partners.

7. Plan to have sex, and then anticipate it, just like in the early days of your relationship.

8. Take care of yourself and each other: A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Infertility treatment can be stressful and strain the relationship. Research suggests that setting time aside regularly, say once a week, to take walks, bike, treat yourselves with a couples massage, take yoga or dancing classes together, can help reduce stress and rejuvenate. Physical activities will not only help you boost your overall energy, but also facilitate a better outcome for your infertility treatment.

9. Seek additional emotional support: Infertility is a shared experience. Individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, and support groups can serve as a safe space for you to explore topics that might be otherwise difficult to discuss.

Dr. Danielle Lane Danielle E Lane, MD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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