Men's Coping Mechanisms

It's an old cliché than men are more likely to bottle up their feelings than women, but it's one that seems to hold true time and time again. Although all men are different and are likely to cope with the strain of IVF in different ways, it's often the case than a man focuses on supporting his partner during the IVF process, and doesn't invest much energy in considering his own fears, stresses and needs. Relationships are two-way streets. When a relationship faces a challenging time such as fertility treatment, it's important that both partners are supportive of one another, and feel free to communicate their feelings.

Male IVF Problems

There are a whole range of reasons why a man may be secretly (or not so secretly) finding IVF hard to cope with. Some women are a bit shocked if their partners start to become emotional and bad tempered during IVF, especially if the man has traditionally been the protector and problem solver in the relationship. It's the woman, after all, who takes all the drugs, goes through all the hormonal changes and gets the needles stuck in her - so just what does a man have to complain about really? Well, actually, quite a lot of things...

A sense of helplessness - a man may feel frustrated that he is unable to help his partner physically through the IVF process. Her care is basically in the hands of her doctor - a third party. A man who takes his role to be that of provider and protector can find this difficult to live with.

Fear - a man may be scared about the risks involved with IVF treatment. He may be worried about his partner's health, or about her emotional state, should the treatment fail.

Loss of masculinity - going through IVF can be seen by a man as an admission that he is unable to successfully impregnate his partner. Even though the fertility problem may be his partner's, and have nothing to do with his ability to father children, he may fear that other people will think that there's something wrong with him. Making babies is considered a basic human function - an inability to do this may make him feel less masculine.

Embarrassment - certain aspects of IVF treatment can be embarrassing for both men and women. Certainly, anyone's pride can take a knock if they have to discuss intimate details of their sex life with a stranger, which can happen as part of the pre-IVF consultation. Also, an essential part of IVF treatment is that a man has to provide a semen sample, on demand, in a fertility clinic. This is understandably humiliating for some men.

Ways Of Coping

If you're going through IVF, you may find that your husband does want to talk about the things that are worrying or upsetting him. Even if you are feeling stressed out yourself, it's important to listen to your partner and acknowledge his right to find this experience difficult.

On the other hand, your partner may seem to want to talk about anything but the IVF. This does not necessarily mean he doesn't care - it may just be his way of coping. He may throw himself into daily activities, like work, sport, jobs around the house, or socializing with friends. He may pick arguments with you about random, trivial things, when what's really bothering him goes unsaid.

Getting Support

It's important to be patient and open minded in your approach to your partner's stress, or apparent lack thereof. You have to strike a balance between letting him know you're there for him and not forcing him to talk if he isn't ready. You also have to think of your own needs - you too are going through a challenging time. If you can't cope alone, remember that counseling is available via your fertility clinic or your regular doctor. There are also many support groups for IVF couples, as well as online support forums.

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