Stress: Fertility treatment can amplify anything stressful in a couple’s life, and simple daily things can just be too much for your partner to handle at the minute. Try to be considerate and see if there is anything you can to do help take the weight off of her shoulders.
Insecurities: Going through fertility treatment can intensify your partners sensitivities and triggers, making it difficult to be around babies and pregnant women (including family members). Be understanding that being around family in general might be a little hard, and the best thing to do is not to question it.
Depression: It is extremely common for women to feel low and depressed while going through fertility treatment. Watch outs are: loss of appetite, inability to sleep, excess sleeping, eating a lot, and generally feeling very sad. If your partner is showing any of these signs you should encourage her to talk to her fertility specialist or a fertility counsellor (usually available through your clinic).
There are four main ways you can support your partner:
One of the best things you can do during IVF treatment is just to listen. Don’t try to fix it, or suggest solutions. Just listen with empathy when your partner needs to share her feelings or to vent. She doesn’t expect you to make things better, she knows you can’t fix the problem. She just wants to know you hear her and that you sympathise. Sometimes just giving her a hug will help you show your support and make her feel loved. Holding her hand, letting her cry on your shoulder, and just being there (not on your phone) is all she needs.
It may be difficult to know how to best help her, so ask her how she wants you to help her. All the hormones play havoc on the emotions and your partner may be fine one minute and floods of tears the next. Similarly, she may want to talk about everything one minute and the next not want to talk about anything to do with treatment. I know this makes it hard to know what to do for the best. Cut her some slack, she’s pumping herself full of hormones every day and ask her how she wants you to help her. She can tell you what she needs at that exact moment and you can help her, Win win.
Your wife’s self-esteem may be suffering, and the indignities and side effects of IVF treatment don’t help. Try to keep any criticism and sarcasm to a minimum, and think about whether it is wise to make jokes at inappropriate times (even if it is to lighten the mood – make a judgement call on how you think your partner will react in the moment). Compliment her on how she looks as she is likely to be feeling bloated and not her usual self – be genuine with your compliments so she believes you. Any little boosts to her confidence will put a smile on her face and make her day a bit brighter.
Show her you admire her for what she is going through, that you think she’s great and handling everything really well. Show her you love and appreciate her – it doesn’t have to be big gestures, something as simples as flowers, chocolates, a hug, or saying ‘I love you’, just to show you understand what she is going through physically and emotionally – trust me, she’ll thank you for it.
The man’s role in fertility treatments is different from his partners in that he will mainly play a support role as his partner does the physical side of treatment. You can help by doing research on treatment – clinics, add ons, side effects, the process, finances, payment plans – so you can support your partner through the process and be prepared for making decisions.
Understanding the impact of treatment on your partner’s body and the way infertility in general makes her feel can help you support her better – it will show your partner that you are interested in her well-being.
You can also research other lifestyle factors that may help with conception and feeling prepared for treatment. Look in to ways that you and your partner can relieve stress, nutritional advice, emotional support and things to do together that you enjoy.
Between the stress and the physical effects of fertility treatment, your wife may be feeling more tired than usual, and all the hormones can cause some side effects such as nausea, fatigue and even pain.
Taking on some of the day to day chores that you don’t normally do will ease the pressure on her and show that you appreciate that she is taking the brunt of the physical side of treatment.
You could take on all the logistics and planning side of fertility treatment – timings of journeys, booking hotels, picking up medication.
You could also offer practical support in terms of nutrition – buying healthy snacks, packing them for when at appointments, and also cutting out/down alcohol as a support to her.
It’s really important that you don’t blame each other for the fertility issues and don’t blame yourself – you are in this as a team, it is a joint issue that you will work through together.
If you would like more support through your journey, you can join my free Facebook support group TTC Support UK.