If you have a partner, parenthood should be a shared project, although in practice this is not always the case. Sometimes it is challenging just to agree on when to start trying for a baby, especially if there is a significant age difference between the two of you or if one of you already has children from a previous relationship.

It is also common for one partner to “push” for a child more than the other. However, it is essential for both partners to share the same desire for parenthood. This will allow them to support each other throughout the process, sharing the excitement as well as any challenges that may arise due to unexpected infertility.

It is a difficult situation to manage at all levels: mental, emotional, social, and family. In addition, the news has an impact on both partners, although physically it usually affects the female partner more. In these cases, and especially when only one of the partners suffers from fertility problems, the relationship must be specially nurtured. Being aware of this is the first step. Even if you think, “It won’t happen to me”, you still need to be prepared, because your partner might not share your perspective and his or her limits in this regard — that is, how far he or she is willing to go — might be very different from yours.

That is why good communication is vital. This means being honest with each other, listening to each other, respecting different points of view, and trying to make decisions together.

“Many relationships suffer because of a lack of good communication,” explains psychologist Sandra García Lumbreras, head of the Psychology Unit at Dexeus Mujer. “Moreover, when a couple can’t get pregnant naturally, it is usually the woman who seeks medical advice and has all the tests done first. If the tests confirm that the issue lies with her, she is also the one who suffers the most physically during the fertility treatment,” adds Sandra. Furthermore, the fact that this process takes so long entails a significant physical and emotional toll, not to mention the financial and professional impact, if you haven’t achieved a certain level of stability yet. If you add to all this a lack of support from your partner — or the feeling that they are not doing enough — or differing opinions, it is difficult to avoid emotional distress.

However, each case and each relationship are different, so we must not generalise. Yet, for the same reason, there is no magic rule that helps to keep the relationship afloat for everyone. But if you start off on the right foot, with understanding, respect and a desire to safeguard the relationship above all else, problems are much easier to manage.

Here are some tips that may help:

  1. If you decide to start a fertility treatment, it is essential that both of you attend medical appointments whenever possible and that, in order to find out the cause of the problem, you both undergo fertility tests or screenings. For heterosexual couples, undergoing initial joint testing is usually more cost-effective, and also allows to check for compatibility issues.
  2. If you want to become a parent, you must take care of yourself physically and mentally. If a change in your habits is needed, you should do so together: both of you should make an effort to eat well, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking or drinking alcohol as much as possible — ideally quitting altogether — even if only one of you is undergoing the treatment. Getting enough rest and changing certain routines can also help. This creates a healthy environment and helps you feel that you are “on the same page” and share a common project
  3. Clearly define and agree on a plan from the outset: what kind of treatment you are going to try, how many times, how far you are willing to go, and where the limits are for each of you.
  4. Do not neglect other projects, hobbies, or personal interests. Keep them on both sides. Relationships often break down because, for one or both partners, parenthood becomes the centre of everything. This should be avoided at all costs. Life goes on, and it is essential to keep things in perspective, work through negative emotions (lack of self-esteem, anger, frustration, sadness, etc.), continue to appreciate and enjoy your relationship and maintain a social life. Whatever happens, you should not isolate yourselves.
  5. Make time for the relationship beyond everything related to infertility. Talk about other things and give yourselves some space if it becomes too overwhelming. The same thing goes for sex: scheduled sex can take a toll on the relationship and end up damaging it, especially if it becomes an obligation rather than a desire. It is better to leave room for spontaneity.
  6. Relationship break-ups or crises do not happen suddenly. They are due to problems and dissatisfactions that have been building up or to misunderstandings that have not been resolved. That is why it is crucial to talk about your problems and feelings, but always without blaming each other and trying to be constructive. Otherwise, you can create wounds that in the long run will undermine the relationship.
  7. If possible, avoid secrecy. Having fertility problems is not a stigma, although it is still challenging to talk about it openly.

At Dexeus Mujer we have a specialised Psychology Unit to address these issues, which in recent years have been increasing due to delayed motherhood and finding a new partner later in life. Our psychologist’s advice is that if you feel infertility is affecting your relationship, you should not ignore it or downplay its importance: it is essential to ask for help and seek professional advice.