Who Owns the Infertility in Your Relationship?

Dawn Davenport


Who Owns the Infertility in Your Relationship

Often it is the wife in the relationship who is the researcher, scheduler, and primary worrier about infertility. Is this healthy?

Ownership may seem like a silly term to use when talking about a disease (and let us not forget that infertility is a disease!), but it seems to me that in many relationships one partner steps to the plate and claims the responsibility–the ownership if you will—of the couple’s infertility.  This someone is often the woman—okay, let’s be perfectly honest here, at the beginning it is almost always the woman.  This pattern of dealing with a disease is counterproductive on so many different levels.

At the very beginning, back when the first little niggling of concern raised its ugly head, it’s fine and dandy for one person to start the ball rolling.  [I swear that pun was not intended.] That person is logically the one who is the most ready to start a family, or the one who tends towards anxiety or pessimism, or the one with the research bent.  If that’s the woman, so be it.  But soon, very soon, both partners need to get involved.

First Test That’s Often Avoided

One of the worst things about the woman owning the couple’s infertility is that is often results in a delay in getting a semen analysis.  I frequently hear from women who are hesitant to insist that their husband get tested because he is squeamish at the thought. I do understand. I totally get why someone might want to avoid sitting in a room full of people who know “why you are there” and then watch you leave that room knowing “what you are going to do”.  Why someone might want to be anywhere else other than in a small room, with people walking and talking right outside the door, perusing someone else’s idea of erotica, man-handling the family jewels [that pun was absolutely intended], and submitting your best work (under the circumstances) for judgment. That’s not anyone’s idea of a day at the park.

Regardless how uncomfortable it is, a semen analysis should be one of the first tests run when a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, even before they seek treatment at an infertility clinic.  It is less expensive and less invasive than most fertility testing on the woman, and can uncover the sole cause of the couple’s infertility roughly 10-15% of the time and a contributing cause in up to 30-40% of cases.  We have extensive resources on male infertility, including two videos.

How to Help Your Guy

I strongly recommend you buy your guy a copy of:

He can listen to either show through the computer, phone,  or tablet. He won’t ever relish the idea of testing, but at least he’ll feel less alone and will have a chuckle or two over the indignities.

Infertility is a couple’s disease, regardless who in the relationship has the actual diagnosis.  Ownership can be mighty lonely. Who owns the infertility in your relationship?


Image credit: jessica.hawkins11

28/06/2011 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 13 Comments

13 Responses to Who Owns the Infertility in Your Relationship?

  1. Avatar Olivia Montuschi says:

    Is infertility really a disease? Surely it is a condition with many causes.

  2. Avatar American Mamacita says:

    Echo on the “well-said, Kat.” We are the stereotype couple: I was pushing on getting to the bottom of why we weren’t conceiving, the hubs was not. Fortunately, my doctor was the one who insisted on the semen analysis (after I had the initial blood work done, and it was fine) before he would proceed with any further testing on me. Saved me a lot of discomfort on the way to our answer to “why,” but it actually caused my husband more distress than I knew for a few months until he told me how much it bothered him.

    But, right, we’re married. And I’d have married him even if I’d known, so it’s “our” infertility issue.

  3. Avatar Michael Barr says:

    Thanks for keeping guys on the radar, Dawn – and I’d love to be a part of your show in the Fall about the man’s perspective!

  4. Avatar Waiting Mother says:

    My sister and her husband tried for two years to get pregnant when she began pushing for infertility testing. Her husband was reluctant to get himself tested and her doctor refused to do any testing unless he could test both husband and wife. My sister finally bought an at home sperm test which indicated he did not have a problem. My sister began to assume the problem was her; after some testing, the dr. found nothing wrong. My sister still felt it was “her” problem and not “their” problem. They finally got pregnant without treatment and have a beautiful little girl from their long wait.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Waiting: This is the “story” I hear more often. One thing I think we women have to acknowledge is that part of the hesitance for some men to get tested is that they fear that a low semen count somehow means they are less masculine. they would never say that having blocked fallopian tubes means a woman is less feminine, but deep down they fear that sperm equates to masculinity.

  5. Avatar Donor Diva says:

    I was the one who got the ball rolling on our treatment. It is amazing to me how many men don’t want to get a semen analysis. I think I actually had my husband do his before we went to our first appointment with our RE. They of course insisted on another one but that wasn’t a big deal.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Donor Diva, I think it absolutely should be done before the first appointment with the infertility clinic because it gives you and your doctor valuable information on how to proceed and what initial tests need to be run on you.

  6. Avatar Empty Whole says:

    ICLW #56

    Interesting take, my husband is the main factor in our struggle and he is the one the kept pushing for testing and moving forward while I resisted and stalled as much as I could.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Empty: That just goes to show that each couple is unique. I do hear most often that it’s the woman who takes the most responsibility for fixing it.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Empty: I hope to hear from others to see if my premise–that woman more often own the couple’s infertility–is in fact true. In your case, clearly not.

  7. Avatar Kat says:

    Thanks, Dawn, for this thoughtful post. While it is helpful to know the physical cause of infertility, I think both husband and wife “own” the disease. We both want to conceive. We both grieve. You simply cannot be more fertile than your spouse.

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