Thursday, September 9, 2010

Growing your Marriage through Infertility - Part 1

Q. I saw your article a few weeks ago about infertility. My spouse and I have been struggling with 'childlessness' for a while and it is taking a toll on our marriage. Can you offer some guidance on keeping our marriage strong through infertility?

Infertility is devastating for couples who long for a child. Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional Counselor in Hoover, Tuscaloosa and Columbiana, wrote an article about this very subject for LifePrints magazine

Protecting Your Marriage Through Infertility
By Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional Counselor

Zach and Liz were exhausted. Thousands of dollars and endless months spent trying to have a child were taking their toll. Although they had a great network of friends and family supporting them, the isolation of being the only “childless” couple was overwhelming at times.

As Liz and Zach talked about their next step, both wondered at the stress they felt, both individually and as a couple. Liz felt she was facing the loss of a dream, the fulfillment of a core part of who she was meant to be. Zach was grieving just as deeply, but didn’t know how to share his thoughts and feelings with his wife.

For many couples, the season in their marriage before the arrival of children is often a time when marital satisfaction is high. However, for a childless couple dealing with infertility treatments, the months or years of trying to have children can turn the season of new love into a difficult rollercoaster of grief, emotions and other stressors that place a great deal of strain on their marriage.

First, let me validate the strain you are experiencing in your marriage. This strain can be caused by a variety of factors:

· Men and women respond differently to infertility. In general, fertility and parenting are not usually as central to a man’s identity as they are to a woman’s. The loss many women feel with infertility would be comparable to the loss a man might feel if he became permanently unable to work. For some men, the biggest loss in the infertility is not the loss of a dreamed-about child, but the loss of the happy wife he once had.

· Men and women process information differently. In general, women process information globally and are better at multi-tasking. Men process information compartmentally and are better at focusing on one subject at a time. A wife’s grief may be triggered by walking past diapers in a store or seeing a baby or pregnant woman. Husbands often have an “infertility compartment” and their grief is expressed only when that compartment is open. She may mistakenly conclude that because he processes his grief differently, he isn’t hurting or doesn’t care as much as she does.

· Infertility treatments are frequently detrimental to sexual satisfaction. Infertility treatments can turn one of the most private aspects of a couple’s marriage into a science lab, causing a decrease in the frequency of intercourse and the couple’s level of satisfaction. This can turn intercourse into a chore and painful reminder of disappointment and failure.

· Infertility treatments are expensive. One intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle may cost as much as $2,500 for medications and the procedure. An in-vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle may cost more than $6,000 for medicine and $6,000-10,000 for the procedures. While insurance laws vary, most health insurance plans in Alabama do not cover assisted reproductive technologies and most prescription plans cover only 80 percent of the cost of infertility medications. Some insurance plans to do not cover infertility medications at all.

· Infertility treatments are time consuming. A woman who is undergoing a typical IUI cycle will usually make 6-8 trips to her reproductive endocrinologist’s office in a 28-day cycle. An IVF cycle involves even more visits. In general, the husband is only medically needed for one appointment per cycle. This can create great stress when balancing visits with work, travel and get-togethers, eliminating the spontaneity that many couples without children enjoy.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotions of this journey, our counselors are here to help. Contact us at 1-866-991-6864 or

Return next week to see our Part 2 article on what exactly you can do to strengthen your marriage through infertility.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

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