Infertility – Dealing with Social Pressures

n cultures that value family and children, the social pressure to conceive a baby within the first year of marriage can be rather overwhelming. This is especially true in India, where the pressure is most often on the woman to conceive a male child, for her to be accepted and integrated into the marital family.

But when the years roll by and the biological clock ticks away, the pressure mounts as relatives and friends grow insensitive by the day with questions like:

  • Any good news yet?
  • When are you going to start a family? You two aren’t getting any younger!
  • When are you going to stop concentrating on your career and start a family?
  • Well, I guess we’ll never be grandparents
  • Oh, I have just the opposite problem – I get pregnant so easily
  • I wish you’d take one of my kids – they drive me crazy!
  • I hear they’re having tremendous success with test-tube babies. Why don’t you try it?
  • You can always adopt!

Handling social pressure as an infertile couple can be one of the most difficult experiences in this phase of your life. But it is important that you take control of the situation. Here are a few tips that could help you overcome social pressure:

Dealing with People

It is quite common in India to be confronted with all kinds of embarrassing questions. Remember, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to respond to the questions and comments – or you can discourage further discussion. Be firm and pleasant – and don’t let yourself be put on the defensive. After all, just because a question is asked does not mean it deserves an answer. So with a smile, you can let them know that it’s none of their business – without being rude yourself.

Think about how you will respond to these questions and plan ways in which you can successfully manage the conversation. There are emotional barriers between the fertile world at large and infertile couples – and you need to work to overcome this!


Taking Control of Your Situation

Social gatherings – especially weddings, baby showers and naming ceremonies – where the conversation focuses on pregnancy and children can be difficult to cope with. You’ll also inevitably have friends who become pregnant during your infertility treatment. While you are happy for them, you could also feel it’s unfair that you are not the one pregnant, and sometimes despair whether you will ever be able to have baby. Holidays and birthdays may also bring added stress by reminding you that time is passing by without children.

In order to decrease your feelings of helplessness and to regain control of your emotions, there are several things you can do. First of all:

  • Take the time to learn about your infertility. Browse the web, read books and gather all information
  • Make an “action plan” outlining possible courses of action as regards your medical treatment
  • Hope for the best and prepare for the worst – in each treatment cycle. If you get pregnant, that’s fine; but you should know what to do next if you do not

Many couples refuse to think about the possibility of failure and plan treatment on an ad-hoc single cycle basis. This is unrealistic and you are only fooling yourself. Being realistic allows you to cope with the ups and downs of treatment – and you need to have a time perspective which includes 4 to 6 treatment cycles, so as to give yourself a reasonable chance of success.


Setting Your Own Limits

During treatment, you need to set your own limits. Sometimes, treatment becomes a merry-go-round, which never stops and you find that you just can’t get off. Some patients get “hooked” onto treatment and never give up – at great pain and expense to themselves. Decide when you will stop treatment and which treatments you will try. This is a decision only you can make and it should satisfy you that you have done all that you want to – so that you do not have feelings of regret later!

If medical therapy becomes too stressful, consider taking a break. When necessary, make it a point to remind friends and family that these are your decisions and that you know what’s best for you.


Protecting Your Marriage

Infertility involves two people and it is important that both of you remain involved even if only one person needs medical treatment. Attend medical appointments together if possible – it is very lonely and frightening sitting alone in the doctor’s office, and the support you give by your presence is very helpful. Sometimes the partner who is undergoing all the tests and treatment (usually the woman!) may feel resentful and angry at all the poking and prodding. You may also be upset and blame your partner for the infertility problems – but being upset and giving needless blame are two different things. Blow off your feelings – but not at your partner – rage at fate instead.

Little things that you do for yourself can make a big difference in how you handle your infertility. Write down positive things you have done or good things that have happened, and read them often. Plan a special evening, and share your thoughts and feelings with your partner.

Many patients find religious support at this time is very helpful – and a deep belief and abiding faith in God can help you immensely in tiding over this crisis in your life.


Tips & Tricks