Four Ways Men Can Support Their Spouses During In Vitro Fertilization

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a medical procedure where a woman’s eggs are removed from her ovaries and fertilized in a lab with sperm from her husband, partner or a selected donor.  The embryos created from the fertilization are returned to her uterus, or the uterus of a surrogate mother, in hopes of creating a pregnancy.  The success rate for this procedure for a woman of 35-years-old is between 30-35% assuming that the eggs are fertilized.  If the sperm provider suffers from infertility issues such as low sperm motility or movement, then intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be necessary.  ICSI is a delicate procedure requiring the lab technician to inject a single sperm into the egg, and is performed at an additional cost.

The cost of IVF varies across Canada, but in Ontario a couple can expect to pay;

Between $4,500 – $7,000 per cycle, $6,000 – $8,150 if ICSI is required and between $2,000 – $7,000 for medication.  Additional costs may include fees for initial consultations and/or registration with the fertility clinic, other recommended services and procedures such as assisted embryo hatching, legal fees for egg, sperm or embryo donor contracts and surrogacy contacts, and other miscellaneous expenses such as travel costs and lodging as needed.

As the model currently exists, IVF is not affordable for everyone.

My good friend Moses and his wife have two wonderful children conceived through IVF.  He described the journey towards becoming a family as stressful, confusing and frustrating at times.  Throughout the process, Moses became a cofacilitator at an infertility support group and he helped encourage men to take an active role in the support group.  He says it’s very important that both members of an infertile couple understand it’s okay to be unsure of what will happen down the road.

Moses also explained that when facing infertility and uncertainty it is very common that both husband and wife feel puzzled.  Getting past the misconception that infertility is primarily a female problem and that separate or together, there should not be any embarrassment that they are unable to conceive.  There is a ton of information available on websites, but the most meaningful information comes through discussions with couples who have experienced, or are experiencing the same issues.

In a previous post, I highlighted how many couples who are unable to conceive first begin to investigate the issue with their doctors and with specialists well before sharing the results with family and friends.  As a result, they endure the frustration of having to answer as to why there do not have children yet, or when they do inform family of their fertility issues, they have to sit through uninformed, yet supportive, comments such as; “it’s going to be all right”, or “relax, and it will all work out”.  Without having time to learn about infertility and IVF those are the most supportive comments many parents and close friends can come up with.

In Moses’ case, he realized there was a plethora of information available online, but having to sort through and decide what was reputable, and applicable to their specific situation was difficult and more specifically, he found that there was very little information available to assist men in dealing with infertility and even less geared towards men surrounding IVF.

Once Moses and his wife found a support group through their hospital, Moses noted what that some couples were very open and engaging, while others preferred to just sit back and listen.  He noted that the men, unless directly engaged, tended to observe more than participate and being the kind of person he is, Moses spoke up during these sessions – asking questions, stating facts and citing sources – which provided a forum for other men in the group to participate more actively.

As a result, Moses was asked to co-facilitate some of these support groups and provide the male perspective in order to assist men in the group to understand what they were feeling and that it was okay to be unsure of what would happen down the road or that their spouses were also puzzled, confused, frustrated, angry, and sad and it was okay if they were too.  I learned that the average number of years that couples are full of stress, blame, resentment and self-doubt is 2.4.

I also learned from Moses that during this period of time in which the woman has to come to grips with the fact that she may not be able to conceive a baby.  The father needs to play a huge part in this life-altering realization beginning with listening and ending with supporting.

Here are the 4 key pillars of support men need to offer during infertility, according to Moses:

1.  Listen – with your eyes and ears.  Don’t wait for your wife to come to you to talk.  Sense when she needs your support, whether it’s just to have you listen or for her to vent at.  You know she’s have a really tough time and it’s the time you need to be hyper aware of her needs.  By failing to step up at this point could cause irreparable damage to the relationship which she may never get over.

2.  Acknowledge that you are not able to sort through this by yourself.  As men, we have this tendency to try to solve problems regardless of whether there is a solution available or if our opinions are needed at that moment.  But there is not a solution available and with infertility being the serious problem that it is – tensions are already high – and our offer of a solution is not helpful.  Instead, we need to seek the help of professionals who deal with infertility and who have first-hand experience with the next steps and we need to speak with them, with others in the same situations and with organizations who are there to assist, in order to make sure that we can learn, educate ourselves and support our wives.

3.  Seek out opportunities to speak with like-minded people.  Briefly touched on in the previous point, you cannot underestimate the importance of speaking with like-minded people who have either gone through this with success or who have not had success as it provides a window into where your mindset could be in six-months, a year, or two-years.  In addition, these couples may have tried something different or picked up a trick or technique which might be beneficial down the road or at the very worst case, these couples may be able to offer up support or hope which can help you down the road as the going gets tough.

4.  Educate yourself – this is huge – give yourself power.  As in every situation, motivated people do their homework and continue to keep up the pace on the current goings-on in every facet of their lives.  In the workplace, they continue to educate themselves because they want to learn more, know more and get a higher degree which can help them get a better position and in life, people who want to stay healthy stay up-to-date on the latest trends and reports.  Researching and learning about infertility, treatments, IVF, risks and rewards helps prepare couples for the decisions they have to make and what their future will look like.

It makes sense that couples who want families so bad that they are willing to give up their bodies and their life savings remain on top of the latest trends in treatment of infertility, drugs, and the side-effects on the woman and the potential babies and on IVF and risks, rewards and expected length of time.

When asked whether or not he felt that each province should cover the cost of IVF treatments in order to reduce the cost to taxpayers of multiple births, Moses adamantly responded that “YES!”  Not only does the funding of IVF reduce the costs to taxpayers but it also helps couples who want children more than anything else in the world not have to lose everything in order to have them.  Having to pay for multiple treatments, without any government intervention, made it perfectly clear to Moses that IVF is not available to everyone and it should be.

In this day and age where society worries about the breakdown in the family unit, it is refreshing to see couples who are trying their hardest to become families knowing the importance of this family unit to them and that their child(ren) would be supported and nurtured through thick and thin.

It makes sense to fund IVF in order to keep premature babies and mommies out of the hospital and keep that costs off the taxpayer.  It also makes sense to help couples who want children more than anything else in the world, try to realize that dream.

Please follow @OHIP4IVF on Twitter or the hashtag #OHIP4IVF to support government funding for IVF.  Help other couples become parents, without the financial burden that comes with infertility.

*I am sharing my story as a member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team, and have been compensated for this post.  Opinions and the words which I have written are all my own.
 
You can find more information here;
 
http://www.twitter.com/ohip4ivf
http://www.facebook.com/conceivabledreams

8 thoughts on “Four Ways Men Can Support Their Spouses During In Vitro Fertilization

  1. Hi warren: this is a great post! Thanks! I agree, it’s so important for husbands to help support their wives through the process. I also agree that it’s probably not a purposefully malicious intention on parents or friends when they make insensitive comments. It is probably merely misinformation or not knowing what to say.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post.

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