The thought of growing your family and trying for baby is exciting and draws couples closer. But, when month after month that dream is continuously shattered, frustration and sadness can have a profound effect on relationships.
Dreaming of Baby discusses the effect of infertility-related stress on relationships with Dr. Brian Levine from CCRM New York.
Charles: Hello, and welcome to Dreaming of Baby. We have with us today Dr. Brian Levine to discuss fertility and relationships. Dr. Levine, would you be so kind as to tell our readers a little about yourself?
Dr. Brian Levine: Hi Charles! It’s a pleasure to speak with you again! I am a practicing reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist in NYC.
Infertility and Your Relationship
Charles: I would like to discuss today a very important factor when it comes to fertility: relationships. Starting with the first visit, and from your experience working with couples, what can you tell us about the strain that an infertility or sub-fertility diagnosis may have on the couple and, conversely, on their chances of conceiving?
Dr. Brian Levine: As we all know, stress is part of being in a relationship. We all know that relationships have their ups and downs. When it comes to dealing with infertility, couples sometimes experience a new type of stress. Sometimes, one partner wants to know who is at fault and why it is not working. Other times, the partner prays that it is them so as to protect their partner. Given that infertility is 40% male origin, 40% female origin, and 20% unknown, it is often the first office visit that causes the most strain and stress in the relationship because the etiology of the infertility diagnosis is not clear.
Dr. Brian Levine: “Given that infertility is 40% male origin, 40% female origin, and 20% unknown, it is often the first office visit that causes the most strain and stress in the relationship because the etiology of the infertility diagnosis is not clear.”
Charles: How in your experience can a couple reduce this stress? What steps can they take, and what should they be asking their fertility specialist? Or, in some cases, not asking?
Dr. Brian Levine: As couples go down their journey, we start to see quite often that the stress tends to go away as patients become focused on addressing the cause of the infertility. Some of the best strategies for helping to address the stress of infertility include attending workshops together, joining support groups, or simply both going to appointments together. I cannot tell you how many times only one partner shows up to an appointment which then leads to a very unfortunate situation of the “telephone game “. And of course, my best advice is to disconnect their Internet. Because the Internet is full of misinformation.
Charles: What are some of the factors you would say reduce this stress? Is it the fact that the problem becomes clearer and therefore the couple goes from discovering the problem to working towards a solution?
Dr. Brian Levine: Exactly! Problems start to have solutions!
Charles: I know many couples worry about how likely it is that they can solve their fertility problem. What would you say is the best way to get over this anxiety?
Dr. Brian Levine: My best advice might seem very obvious but very few patients actually follow it. Have an open conversation with your doctor. Ask about the chances of success. Ask about their experience in treating such a condition. Ask about what are the potential good and bad outcomes in that scenario.
Charles: You mentioned a lot of information on the internet being misleading; how can patients decipher what to trust and what not to trust?
Dr. Brian Levine: I think it is hard to decipher when “in the moment.” With that said, use a trusted site that is vetted, such as this one. Avoid forums where patients are telling their anecdotal experiences. Avoid groups where it feels like vitamins are being sold more than discussed.
Charles: That makes a lot of sense and I think also consulting with your fertility specialist in terms of what your actual diagnosis is before researching everything under the sun would probably help alleviate stress. On a final note Dr. Levine, how important is it for couples not to fall into the blame game? From a medical perspective, is it generally a one-sided consideration or combined issues that are the cause?
Dr. Brian Levine: I think you are 100% correct. The most important thing that a couple can do, is to protect their relationship. Blaming helps in the moment but does not solve the problem. Trust, empathy, support and perseverance are the attributes to a successful therapeutic relationship between two patients and patient/partner/Dr.
Charles: Thank you for being with us today Dr. Brian Levine and for the beautiful bundles of joy you help bring into this world! If there is anything you would like to share with our readers that you think they need to know please feel free to do so!
Dr. Brian Levine: Thank you! I really appreciate you inviting me to participate. Tell everyone, scream it from the rooftops… Stay positive!