Infertility Awareness Starts in Your Relationship

By Published On: April 24th, 2023

Establishing safe and healthy communication with your partner plays a role in your infertility journey. Here’s how to tackle tough conversations when facing conception challenges together.

Medical Expert: Banafsheh Kashani, MD

Approximately 17.5% of adults—1 in 6 people—across the globe struggle with infertility. Being so common, you may assume that infertility is understood by the masses and normalized when seeking help and support within our inner circles. But the truth is that conception troubles can lead to loneliness and isolation even if you’re in a committed relationship. 

Just because your partner may be literally half of the equation in making a baby doesn’t mean they know all the right things to say during such a vulnerable time. But, as with any life challenge a partnership might face, communication is a must for remaining united through the process.

By feeling seen and understood by your partner—and offering the same in return—as you navigate infertility, you’ll build a stronger foundation of trust and security while dealing with unknowns. That’s why we are focusing on parents coming together and being better support systems for one another this National Infertility Awareness Week, and it appears the experts agree.

We connected with Banafsheh Kashani, MD, a fertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) specialist practicing in Orange County, California, to discuss the importance of fertility awareness in your relationship. Dr. Kashani believes this transparency is not only pivotal but that it also goes hand-in-hand with a successful IVF journey. Whether you’re looking to open up about your conception worries for the first time or need guidance on how to better help your partner, Dr. Kashani says a clear and honest conversation is the place to start. 

For more advice from Dr. Kashani, take a look at our Q&A with her below.

Q: How significant is communication for couples dealing with fertility concerns?

A: Communication is key to any relationship, but when it comes to infertility, having an upfront conversation is incredibly helpful. Sometimes, your partner is the only person who can understand what you are going through, and often those experiencing fertility issues do not feel comfortable talking with their friends and family. This is why it’s necessary for partners to create an open forum to discuss fertility concerns together, first and foremost.

It’s also very important to make sure couples never attribute infertility to being a female or a male problem (something that places blame), as these types of claims are not helpful and can be further isolating.

Q: What advice would you give someone approaching a conversation about infertility for the first time?

A: This initial discussion can be difficult, but you have to try to be as honest as possible and not withhold feelings or concerns.

First, it’s important to assess and voice whether you think there is a current problem. How many months have you been trying? Is there a concern about menstrual cycles not being regular? Is there a concern about the ability to have intercourse or about a partner having an erection or ejaculation? Are there any issues surrounding lifestyle choices that can affect fertility? These types of questions can help you identify mutual concerns as a starting point and align your focus on finding a solution.

You might also consider planning to have the conversation at an ideal time for your partner. Perhaps you do this over a private dinner during the weekend when there are no distractions and you’ve both had time to decompress and relax. Again, make sure you are never accusatory in your discussions and that you provide ample time for your partner to process what you say and to speak when ready. Practice being an active listener and make space for their responses without judgment.

Q: When is it time to see a specialist?

A: Couples that have been trying for over a year with unprotected intercourse should seek a consultation with a fertility specialist. If the female is over the age of 35, they should seek consultation after six months. If the female is over the age of 40, then they should consider consultation after three months of trying.

Additionally, if the male partner has had a prior vasectomy, history of testicular cancer, or has had chemotherapy or radiation, this may require an earlier evaluation. Also, if there are any difficulties with an erection or ejaculation, you should not delay obtaining a consultation with a fertility specialist or a urologist.

If the female partner has irregular menstrual cycles or a history of chemotherapy or radiation, endometriosis, or pelvic infection, then seeking consultation sooner is advised.

Q: Are there at-home products or practices you recommend?

A: Yes! Track your menstrual cycles. The more you know about your body and how it operates, the better. You can also consider tracking your ovulation with urine ovulation kits, like this one. During intercourse, using Pre-Seed Fertility Lubricant can help promote sperm motility. A 2014 in-vitro study found Pre-Seed to be less harmful than other lubricants to sperm overall.

Additionally, I’d advise finding online or in-person support networks or utilizing therapists who are trained to help you navigate this difficult time and the roller-coaster of infertility.

While building a solid support system with your partner during infertility is essential, keep in mind that it’s not the only place to seek solidarity. Local groups, whether in your community or online using Facebook, Conceive, or other platforms, can provide a safe place of connection to others who may better understand what you’re going through. Whether with your partner or not, remember that you deserve support and don’t have to walk through this journey alone.

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