Infertility and its treatment can be very stressful, causing tension and strain in even the strongest relationships. Although the stress due to Infertility affects both men and women, they tend to experience it differently. This article explains what some of these differences are so that you can better understand the way you and your partner may be handling infertility. With a better understanding of one another, you will be better able to avoid common sources of conflict.
- 1. How Women and Men Respond Differently to Stress
Men and women tend to have different coping styles when it comes to stress. Men are more likely to engage in a “fight or flight” response while women are more likely to engage in “tend or befriend” behaviors.
When men experience stress, many of them are more likely to bury themselves in their work- a way of handling negative emotions by distancing themselves from the source of problem (e.g., flight response). Alternatively, they may approach infertility in a pragmatic fashion, as a problem that needs to be solved (e.g., fight).
Women on the other hand, are often more likely to “talk it out” and reach out for social support (e.g., tend or befriend). Many women can talk for hours on the phone with friends, but still want to continue talking to their husbands.
What Do These Differing Ways of Dealing with Stress Mean if You Are Undergoing Infertility Treatment?
Women may want to talk about their infertility treatment often and share any new information they have found on infertility websites. Men, on the other hand, may feel like they are on information “overload” and may need to withdraw from the issue in order to regroup. Women may take this personally and think that having a baby is more important to them than it is to their spouses and may feel like their spouses don’t care.
It is important to remember that, both men and women are affected by each negative pregnancy test, but they grieve and cope with it differently.
- 2. Women May Be More At Risk
Studies show that the stress caused by infertility may have a stronger negative effect on women than it does on men. A woman may think being infertile is the worst thing that has ever happened to her and be devastated by the experience. This may be due, in part, to women having a stronger need to have a child.
Motherhood may still be considered one of the central female roles for many women and remains a dominant cultural mandate in most societies. Women often want to experience pregnancy in order to feel “complete” and achieve an important developmental milestone.
- 3. The Woman is the One Who Receives Treatment
Regardless of the source of the problem, it is the woman who usually undergoes infertility treatment. It can be very taxing for women, both physically and emotionally, to go through numerous shots, blood tests, ultrasounds, and take time off from work for medical appointments. To make matters worse, the side effects of many fertility medications include irritability and moodiness, making some women feel as though they are on an emotional roller-coaster.
If you are finding it hard to manage as a couple, counseling may help you keep your relationship together. Getting through this very difficult period of infertility may require a trained person who is skilled at helping couples predict and navigate the common stressors of infertility more quickly.
Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping couples who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant or have had a miscarriage. Her number one priority is helping couples feel empowered and find options in fulfilling their dream of becoming parents.
If you would like help coping with infertility stress and building a stronger relationship, contact Dr. Irena Milentijevic at (281) 267-1742.
Offices are located in the Woodlands and Houston Medical Center.
Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping moms and mom wannabes. Her focuses are pregnancy-related issues, pregnancy loss, depression, post-partum depression, and parenting of young children. Her number one priority is to help women feel better about themselves and feel empowered about their choices. Dr.Irena’s offices are located in the Woodlands and in the Houston Medical Center.