Infertility can have a profoundly negative emotional impact on couples. The strain and heartbreak that comes with struggling to have a child can and does break up marriages. The emotional impact infertility has on couples is different from the impact it has on women or men alone and it usually involves three key areas that must each be dealt with all at once. These areas are:
- The Emotional Impact on the Woman: Fertility issues are particularly sensitive ones for a woman. She may feel like a failure at marriage, womanhood, and even life if she fails to conceive. Motherhood is tied up closely with a woman's sense of identity. Add to that the pressures she feels to fulfill societal expectations of her fertility and the wild emotional ride the hormones used in fertility treatments can put her on and you have a recipe for a pressure cooker of negative emotions primed to explode.
- The Emotional Impact on the Man: Most men aren't raised to think they absolutely must become fathers. However, many of them truly do want this. At the very least, they may want it for their partners. If the man is the cause of the infertility problem, as is true in about one-third of infertility cases, then he may question his masculinity or feel less of a man because he can't give his wife a baby. Going through these feelings while providing emotional support for his partner can cause great stress for a man and lead to moodiness, social withdrawal, and outbursts of anger at seemingly small things.
- Financial Stress: Fertility treatments are expensive and most health insurance plans do not cover them. If a couple decides to use fertility treatments to have a baby, they can expect to pay 4 to 5 figures out of pocket each time they make an attempt. Most couples do not have this kind of money readily available to them and their struggle to raise it in their efforts to have a child can cause emotional turmoil and stress within their marriage.
It is easy to see why some couples dealing with infertility eventually break up. The emotional strain in these three areas becomes too much for them to bear together. They don't want to feel like they are continuing to disappoint each other so they go their separate ways.
Counseling is available through many community sources to help couples who are struggling with infertility to communicate better and support each other more while using effective coping techniques for the emotional stress. Exploring different ways to have the baby they dream of while learning how to deal with the current infertility situation can help a couple stay together through the rough times. They may very well be rewarded for this effort when they finally become parents, even if the journey there takes longer than they imagined it would.