It gives couples yearning to expand their family a glimmer of hope in an otherwise desperate situation. Fertility treatments are their last chance at expanding their family ― the good news is that it works for many couples.
As successful as these treatments are, they do come at a price, and we‘re not just talking about how much each cycle costs. There are the endless doctor’s visits, daily hormonal injections, egg retrieval, fertilisation and implantation. Then, there’s the dreaded two-week wait to find out if that long, arduous process has actually been successful.
Feeling tired just reading about it? Then think about how it be for the woman who is actually going through it. Sure, you enter fertility treatment as a couple, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly the wife who gets put through the wringer.
It’s her body that’s being poked, prodded and jacked up with hormones. She’s the one who’s at risk for the side-effects that come with IVF, including Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome ― she produces an oversupply of eggs, which results in a host of medical complications.
Fertility treatments give you hope, but they can also rob you of your happiness and peace of mind, especially when you’re in the thick of it all. A big part of conception depends on how strong a support system the woman who’s going through it has.
If you’re about to embark on your next cycle of fertility treatments, make sure you do all you can to ease your wife’s stress. Not sure where to start? Here are eight things you can do now.
#1 Offer solid physical and emotional support
An IVF cycle is a roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs. Yay, you produced a lot of eggs for retrieval! Boo, only one was successfully fertilised. Yay, implantation went smoothly! Boo, it didn’t take and you aren’t pregnant. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. What your wife needs during this time is not someone who can solve her problems, or dish out tough love. Instead lend a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and say, “I know it sucks honey, and I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I’m always here for you”. She’s feeling insecure and fragile and needs you to tell her it’s going to be all right, even if you don’t know what the outcome is.
Not all fertility issues are straightforward and not all of them are due to female health problems, so no point playing the blame game.
#2 Share the burden
“One-third of the issues involving fertility are due to women, one-third to men, and the remaining one-third are complications from both partners or from unknown causes,” points out gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Kelly Loi, who runs The Health and Fertility Centre for Women. Not all fertility issues are straightforward and not all of them are due to female health problems, so no point playing the blame game. Don’t ever ― even in your lowest moment say something like ― “We wouldn’t have to go through all of this if it wasn’t for your fertility problems.” It’s hurtful and counterproductive. Instead, share the weight of the problem and focus your time and energy on the next step.
#3 Give tangible support
It’ll really help to hold her hand during those endless injections and listen to her moan about stomach cramps after egg retrieval. But so is planning dinners, making sure the house is spic and span and that all the grocery shopping is done. Your lady has a lot on her plate, and mind, at the moment, so give her a break and take on more of her responsibilities.
#4 Spoil her rotten
Fertility treatments can take up a lot of your time ― it might even hijack your marriage. As much as you want this to work out, you also don’t want to be completely consumed by it. Take her mind of things with a surprise vacation to a destination that’s on her bucket list. Or spend an entire Saturday at a spa. Better yet, make a list of couple goals you both want to achieve before you have a baby and tick them off. Not only will it force you to allocate fertility-free time in your calendar, you’re also keeping things positive.
#5 Be as committed to the journey as she is
It’s not enough to say you’re in it for good or bad ― show it! Attend all her doctor appointments with her, hold her hand when she gets her daily shots, better yet, give her the shots. Be there during scans, egg retrieval and implantation and close one eye when the hormones make her act a little crazy. Get familiar with the fertility treatment she’s receiving including the medical terminology, risks and outcomes. Ask the doctor any questions you might have ― show her you’re doing everything you can to help her through this.
Treat every stage of the fertility treatment as a milestone on its own and give your better half the recognition she deserves.
#6 Be her biggest fan
Treat every stage of the fertility treatment as a milestone on its own and give your better half the recognition she deserves. It doesn’t have to be anything over the top, simple acts go a long way. Send her encouraging text messages about what a strong person you think she is or cook her favourite meal and give her a foot rub after she’s had a particularly gruelling session. Find a way to let her know you recognise her efforts every step of the way, even if it doesn’t result in a baby.
#7 Support her decisions
If she wants to go ahead with another fertility treatment cycle, support her. If she wants to take a break from trying to have a baby and focus on something else, give her your full blessing. Yes, both of you are trying to have a baby, but it’s only your wife who has to go through it physically. So, whatever she chooses to do with her body, respect her decision as long as it’s not against the doctor’s advice.
#8 Give her a safe space to talk about her feelings
When fertility treatment is going well, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement, but don’t forget to check in on your wife regularly to see how she’s really coping. Create a non-judgmental, safe space for her to talk honestly about how she’s feeling about everything. Ask her questions no one else is such as, “Are you sure this is what you want?” or “Do you want to carry on?” or “Are you happy about where you are right now?”. Remember, you must let your wife know she has your unfaltering support ― so, don’t hold back, she needs your strength to get her through this time tough time!
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