19:25 8th November 2019 | Male Infertility
Have you ever wondered why psychological distress appears to be a normal state while someone is going through infertility treatment?
A diagnosis of infertility is always stressful and often life-changing. Some men or women might already know or suspect that they are infertile; for example if they have had cancer chemotherapy or endometriosis. For others, the failure to conceive a child is very much a shocker. More importantly, many couples do not realize that in about 30 per cent of infertile couples, a male factor contributes to the problem.
The following issues can emotionally influence couples who have been diagnosed as infertile and/or who might be considering infertility treatment:
Uncertainty about success of fertility treatment
One of the most difficult issues surrounding infertility is the uncertainty about whether treatment will be successful. Going through diagnostic tests and then trying to conceive for a number of ovulation cycles is an emotional roller coaster of hope and disappointment for many couples.
Spouses sometimes have trouble agreeing on which fertility option to try: adoption, gamete donation, high technology treatments, etc. After many different treatments have been tried unsuccessfully, partners also need to agree on when to give up. However, often there is just one more, possibly more expensive medical treatment that holds some promise of working.
Infertility: Source of grieving
Many people do not recognize that infertility is a source of grieving. The loss of a child who was wanted and imagined but never conceived is a legitimate loss, much like suffering a miscarriage or a stillborn baby. The issues include the following:
Feeling of losing control
With infertility, no matter how hard the couple might work at conceiving and how carefully they follow the doctor’s instructions, they have limited control over the outcome. It is this loss of control that is so difficult.
Loss of self-esteem
Many men and women feel a loss of self-esteem when they discover they have an infertility problem. They feel less valuable as a spouse and might even doubt whether they are a “real” man or woman. Of course, gender and sexuality do not depend on fertility, but feelings do not always respond to logical thinking. Many couples find it painful to be around children, especially at family gatherings. They also might have to deal with questions from parents about why there are no grandchildren.
Because infertility treatments may not be covered by insurance, many couples have to pay part or all of the costs, which often puts a financial strain on families. Coverage for mental health services is also often poor, making couples reluctant to seek additional help.
A diagnosis of infertility can affect a marriage relationship. Often the spouse who is infertile fears that the partner will leave and find someone who is able to have children. Sometimes, if only one partner is infertile, he or she will even try to persuade the spouse to get a divorce. Once infertility treatment has begun, one spouse might feel that the other is less motivated to succeed. This creates tremendous anger. Sometimes the stress on the relationship is so great that one spouse will have an affair to prove his or her self-worth or even to demonstrate fertility with someone else.
The demand to have intercourse at the proper times can provoke frustration when one partner has a business trip, is working late, or just cannot get in the mood for sex. Couples who go through cycles of sex-on-demand often find that lovemaking loses its spontaneity and playfulness. Sex becomes a chore to be performed at mid-cycle only. Sometimes the pressure to perform is so great that a man has trouble with erection or is unable to ejaculate.
Most couples dread the postcoital test, in which intercourse must be scheduled just before a visit to the infertility clinic. Even providing a semen sample through masturbation can be an unpleasant and anxiety-provoking experience.
For some couples, erection or ejaculation problems are actually causes of infertility and need to be treated with medical or psychological therapies. Women might have trouble getting aroused, so vaginal dryness or muscle tension make intercourse painful. Unfortunately, gel lubricants that could make sex more comfortable interfere with the movement of the sperm through the vagina. It is common to have distracting thoughts about infertility during sex, further reducing the pleasure of lovemaking.
There is no scientific evidence that having an orgasm during intercourse will increase a woman's chance of conceiving. Some infertility specialists might even tell couples to use special sexual techniques that are not scientifically proven to enhance fertility, such as telling men to try to ejaculate on a very deep thrust, or telling women to hold their legs up for half an hour after intercourse so that semen will remain deep in the vagina.
Sometimes one or both sides of the family pressures the couple to have children. Spouses might also disagree on telling anyone about the infertility problem, or they might disagree on how much to confide in parents or siblings. This can be an especially difficult issue if the couple chooses to use a sperm or egg donor to conceive.
Some of the common concerns include: Should anyone outside the couple know? Should the child be told about the gamete donation? There is no right or wrong answer, but these issues can add stress.
Everyone gets stressed once in a while. So if you’re frazzled for a few weeks at work or feel anxious about a big move, it likely won’t hurt your baby-making abilities. But if your stress goes on for a long time or if you’re dealing with a major upheaval like unemployment or a death in the family, then your ovulation might get thrown out of whack.
About 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have trouble conceiving or finishing the pregnancy, according to the CDC. Usually, there is a physical reason, such as blocked fallopian tubes.
If you’ve been trying to have a baby for a while or just want to ramp up your chances, apart from learning to challenge automatic negative thoughts like, "I’ll never get pregnant,” or blaming yourself, research suggests these actions might help.
Exercise for “just right” amount: Physical activity both lowers stress and boosts fertility, says Lauren Wise, ScD, professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health. But low key is key. Working out moderately, 1 to 5 hours a week of activities like walking, raised the odds of conception in a study Wise conducted. But women who worked out more vigorously were less likely to pregnant.
Watch your weight: One downfall of stress is a tendency to eat for emotional comfort. Being overweight or obese makes it harder to get or stay pregnant. Some research suggests that women who are obese may be three times more likely than other women to have trouble conceiving.
Eat a healthy diet: When you’re stressed, it’s tempting to load up on processed, sugary foods. But women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and soy are more likely to conceive than those who eat a high-fat, heavily processed diet, according to one study.
Reduce Speculation. Get peace of mind through fertility testing: The saying goes, Ignorance is never better than knowledge. Knowing your fertility status is always a step in the right direction. Getting a basic semen analysis, hormonal testing and transvaginal ultrasound can unravel things you otherwise would have never known about your body’s ability to conceive. Bridge Clinic’s FertilitySure test adequately covers these requirements.
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