How to Have the "Infertility Talk" with your Partner
Too often, my patients neglect talking about or are scared to discuss fertility with their partners. Not knowing how their partner will react – whether they will be receptive or not – can be unsettling, and so many shy away from having the conversation. Having advised patients seeking fertility treatment for many years, I have found that there are several questions that continually come up. Below I’ve listed real questions from patients that I have collected over the years. While my answers are certainly not the only answers, they may be a useful starting point for patients interested in but unsure how to bring up the ‘I’m infertile’ conversation.
Question: How can I broach the topic of infertility with my partner?
Answer: Start with a question such as, “Do you know anyone who has been through fertility treatment?” This gives your partner a chance to collect their thoughts and not feel ambushed by the conversation. They will feel more comfortable speaking with you and will be able to have a dialogue about the subject.
Question: What do patients struggling with infertility tend to fear most about discussing it with their partners?
Answer: When patients bring up the subject of infertility with their partners, a common fear is that their partner may view them as unable to hold up their part of the “baby bargain”. Fortunately, there are a variety of procedures today that can help a patient get pregnant. And even if treatment doesn’t work, there’s always a way of building a family. With ovum donation, for example, the male still donates genes from his gene pool. The female essentially receives double donation – one from a male, of course (just like every woman who gets pregnant), and one from another female (she donates genes from her gene pool, not her own DNA). Then the recipient’s body proceeds to build her own biological child like every other pregnant woman in the world!
Question: Is the "infertility talk" just for serious, committed relationships? Why or why not?
Answer: If the partner is not in a committed relationship with you, having the ‘talk’ can be a great way to see how empathetic and devoted they are or can be in the future. After having the ‘talk,’ YOU may be the one to decide not to pursue the relationship further. It is an important conversation to have at any stage of a relationship because it can give you a clear picture of your partner’s goals for the future.
Question: What is the best way to discuss infertility and birth control?
Answer: FACTS! Educate yourself and your partner. Most men and women do not know the facts of fertility and that age, not fitness or health is the most important factor in determining fertility success.
Question: What is your advice for committed couples discussing infertility?
Answer: Talk as “WE” and you will both likely feel like “WE”. Understand you are BOTH going through the journey together. Using language that includes both of you will make you both feel part of the process and committed to facing the journey together.