One of the most difficult things for couples trying to conceive is learning how to navigate conversations around health and fertility in a helpful way.
Common questions from relatives, friends, and even strangers such as; ‘when are you going to have kids?’ can feel extremely intrusive and are difficult to answer when you’re struggling to conceive. And let’s be honest, it can make the whole experience feel a lot more isolating. While you may feel alone in your experience it’s important to remember that you are not alone.
In this article, we will be sharing how to have candid conversations about health and fertility with your partner and your family. Let’s get started.
Women’s Fertility and Getting Pregnant Later in Life
Increasingly, women are having babies later in life. According to The New York Times, researchers attribute this choice to “advances in assisted reproductive technology as well as shifting social norms, which have given women more opportunity to focus on their careers in early adulthood rather than having families.”
While delaying having a family can have numerous benefits it often means women are trying to conceive later in life. As such, it is becoming increasingly common for women to struggle with problems around their health and fertility that are negatively affecting their ability to have healthy, full-term pregnancies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In the United States, among married women aged 15 to 49 years with no prior births, about 1 in 5 (19%) are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying (infertility). Also, about 1 in 4 (26%) of women in this group have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.”
Why is Fertility Difficult to Talk About?
The struggle to conceive can feel all-consuming. Sex becomes something that is scheduled to fit with ovulation predictions, the wait times between tests feel like an eternity, and the feeling of disappointment after a negative result can feel overwhelming.
Unfortunately, this leads many women to feel angry, depressed, anxious, or wanting to dull the pain. In fact, according to Recovery.com, “Alcohol affects women’s reproductive health. Studies show that heavy drinking may decrease your chances of getting pregnant. Conversely, women who face infertility issues are more likely to drink heavily in response to unsuccessful attempts.”
Sadly, for many women, the journey through infertility is one walked alone. This is because most women feel uncomfortable or awkward talking about their struggles with others. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Infertile women face social and self-stigma which threatens their psychosocial wellbeing and self-esteem […] It has the potential to deprive the infertile person of social support and cause depression, anxiety and stress, feelings of guilt and relationship problems.”
The struggle to conceive touches on every aspect of a woman’s life. However, having candid conversations about health and fertility opens up the door for fertility support and understanding from others in your life.
How to Talk About Health and Fertility
Let’s take a look at how you can talk about your health and fertility with the people in your life. Initially, it can be difficult starting these conversations. However, once you’ve made the brave step of sharing you should find support from those around you.
How to Discuss Health and Fertility with Your Partner
Talking with your partner should be your number one priority because you are both on this journey together. Here are a few ways you can discuss your fertility concerns with your partner in a healthy and helpful way:
Avoid Pointing the Finger
The topic of fertility when you’re struggling to conceive is one fraught with emotion. This makes it difficult for many women to share their fears without feeling hurt, let down, or angry. It’s important you know these are all very normal responses. However, in order to have a productive conversation about fertility with your partner it’s important to be as clear in your communication as possible.
It is unhelpful to start conversations with sentences like: “You don’t care about this as much as me”, or “why aren’t you worried?”
While you may be feeling many, if not all, of the points above it is important to keep your conversation free from blame. You don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on your partner. So, you could say something along the lines of, “I am really worried. It’s just not working out like I was hoping and I think we need to talk about it.” Remember your goal when you started this, you wanted to start a family because you love one another.
Be Supportive of Their Feelings
Just like you, your partner is struggling. This can be easy to forget when you’re the one tracking your ovulation and taking pregnancy tests each month. However, your partner is just as involved in this journey as you are and, as such, they experience many of the same emotions.
Therefore, when you’re talking about your fertility struggles it’s important to be sensitive to your partner’s emotions and supportive of their feelings. When they choose to share how they’re feeling it’s important you aren’t dismissive. Be understanding, show active listening, and ask whether there is anything you could be doing to help.
Make a Plan
Often, fertility struggles are shoved under the rug. Couples don’t talk about their fertility issues with each other and they certainly don’t want to talk about them with other people. So, they just don’t talk about them at all. This can lead to a build-up of feelings such as resentment, anger, and disappointment which can lead to relationship break-downs among many other things.
Therefore, it is important to have a candid conversation with your partner and make a plan for your next steps. Are you going to have sex more regularly? Are you going to speak with your family? Do you need to seek counseling support? And, most importantly, is it time to speak with a fertility specialist? Discussing these things helps you plan for the future.
How to Discuss Health and Fertility with Your Family
Sharing your fertility struggles with your family can be challenging. And for some people, they may not feel comfortable doing so. You know your family, the history there, and whether or not being honest about your fertility issues would be helpful. If it would, here are a few ways you can navigate that conversation in a healthy way.
Decide on the Details
It is important to decide what you’re going to share in advance of the conversation. This avoids any awkwardness or misunderstandings. It also prevents you from sharing something your partner didn’t want to share. Some couples find it’s helpful to rehearse what they’re going to say beforehand so they’re both on the same page.
Set Aside Time
There’s nothing more annoying than trying to have a serious conversation but being constantly interrupted. We’ve all been there. Discussing infertility is a difficult topic and one that should be given full attention. That’s why we recommend setting aside time with family, where they’re not distracted or otherwise busy, to sit down and talk.
Choose the Right Location
This may seem obvious, however many people don’t think about where they’re going to have the conversation. Conversations around health and fertility are vulnerable and can feel quite exposing initially, so it’s important to choose somewhere private and where you won’t feel worried about showing emotion.
Talk About Boundaries
Once your family members know the details, it’s important to set some boundaries. For example, you might find monthly texts asking when you’re taking a test too invasive. Or you might not want to discuss treatment results. Sharing these things with family is important as it ensures everyone is on the same page.
Ask for Support
When your family hears of your fertility struggles, their first instinct will likely be wondering how they can support you. So, it’s helpful to come prepared with a few suggestions. Perhaps you need someone to drive you to appointments. Or you want a chat once a week. Or perhaps you need a break from family gatherings this year. Whatever it is, make sure you have a few suggestions so that your family can support you in the right way.
We know how difficult it can be to open up about your health and fertility struggles. However, you should never suffer alone. There are so many people going through similar experiences all of whom wrongly assume that what they’re feeling doesn’t matter or that other people simply won’t care.
You can make a positive change today by opening up about your fertility journey. You don’t have to share everything all at once. Just start with; “I’m struggling and I need support.” We hope these tips will help you talk candidly with those around you and seek the support you’re after.