In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) can bring couples great joy – the baby you have longed for - but the process can pile on the pressure.
The good news is you’ll be offered counselling to help you through, and there’s a lot you can do as a couple to keep your relationship loving, happy and strong.
At a glance
- Preparing yourself for IVF rollercoaster
- Doing your research and making a decision
- Spending quality time together
So what’s difficult?
It’s important to be prepared for a few ups and downs. The combination of continuous medical intervention, high expectations and disappointments can turn IVF into a real emotional rollercoaster, putting a strain on even the strongest relationship.
Make a joint decision
Do your research, and discuss whether this is something you both want to do. Have a chat about exactly how far you're prepared to go, asking a few key questions:
- Can we afford it? Although women under 40 get one free IVF attempt on the NHS, how many further attempts can you afford? Although success rates are rising, IVF still fails more than it succeeds
- How do we feel about the medical intervention? IVF involves lots of hospital appointments, tests and procedures.Do we want to risk our relationship? Even the happiest couples find this time stressful, so have a serious think about whether you want to put yourselves under this much pressure
Dodge the blame game
“IVF can involve quite a few agonising waits,” says Richard Smith, Consultant Obstetrician. “You wait to see if the egg and sperm produce healthy embryos, then you wait to see whether a healthy pregnancy follows after the embryos are implanted. All this can put a lot of pressure on you as a couple. And if the treatment doesn’t work, disappointment can even lead to you blaming each other. The best answer is to keep talking."
Your emotional and physical health
Some women say struggling to get pregnant makes them feel like ‘less of a woman’, and on top of that they’re dealing with continuous treatment. “Fertility drugs, which you'll be taking for the first half of your menstrual cycle, can make you feel very low and irritable,” says Smith. “Egg extraction can be slightly painful and all the treatment can leave you feeling wiped out. Keep talking to your partner so they understand where you’re coming from, and know how to help.”
Impact on your man
“If the fertility problem lies with the man, chances are his confidence will be low,” says Smith. “Many men see it as a slur on their virility, so he'll need lots of reassurance from you. He may also feel embarrassed about having to repeatedly provide sperm samples, or he feel like a spare part in the whole process. So make sure you keep communicating and try to find ways of keeping him involved.”
Share your feelings
The important thing is to share your experiences and remember you’re going through this together, not alone.
Take a break
Grab a weekend break, see friends or catch a movie – anything that gives you a breather from the intensity of IVF. It’ll also remind you how brilliantly you get on when life is a bit lighter!