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The Psychological Impact Of Infertility On Men And Women

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The Psychological Impact of Infertility on Men and Women

By: Lily-Ann Peters

Dec 1st, 2006


"The inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse , or the inability of the woman to carry a pregnancy to live birth."(Malpani)

It may seem that 12 months is a random amount of time, but it is known that the majority of fertile couples can become pregnant within a year. Therefore, if a couple has been trying and have not conceived within a year, the man, women or both partners are probably infertile.

Infertility can affect anyone regardless of age, weight, race, marital status, country, sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic standing. One can not tell that someone is infertile simply by looking at them.

Causes of Infertility

Infertility can be the cause of many variables. Statistics show that 40% of infertility issues are female, 40% are male and that 20% are unknown. There is also evidence that states, often infertility is the cause of both male and female discrepancies. Therefore, when dealing with infertility, most couples look at it as a "couple problem," rather than placing blame on one partner. Psychologists believe facing infertility as a couple, rather than blaming one another, will help to keep the marriage together.

Infertility can occur due to several different abnormalities. In men hormone disorders, illness, reproductive anatomy trauma or obstruction and sexual dysfunction are considered causal factors. Any or all of these conditions can cause temporary or permanent defects to sperm and prevent conception. The number one cause of infertility in women is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Other factors contributing to infertility in women are age, anovulation, blocked fallopian tubes, genetic issues, Chlamydia or uterine abnormalities. Another factor is voluntary sterility, which is then regretted.

Diagnoses of Infertility

Health care professionals perform an infertility workup to come up with a treatment plan. This procedure consists of one or many different tests done in both men and women. In women, the tests will indicate if she is ovulating normally and show any abnormalities in her uterus or fallopian tubes. In men, the testing involves performing a semen analysis which allows medical professional to evaluate the quantity and quality of the man's sperm.

There are several tests that may be done to determines the cause of infertility in a women including:

CCCT (Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test)

* Women are born with a limited number of eggs, this test evaluates the ovarian reserve, indicating the number of viable eggs she has remaining in her ovaries.


* This procedure allows the physician to directly examine the inside of the uterus for abnormalities and growths.

Hysterosalpinogram (HSG)

* This is an x-ray of the cervix and fallopian tubes. A dye is inserted through the cervix. The dye helps the radiologist, to more clearly, identify healthy tissue from abnormalities.

The Psychological Impact of Infertility

"Infertility is without a doubt a life altering experience. From your self-esteem, to your plans and dreams for the future, relationships with friends, family and even your spouse can be affected." (Childbirth) Infertility is a personal and private issues in the sense that most couples are very reserved in sharing their experience with friends and family. They may avoid questions such as, "When are you having children?" The pressure of avoiding and lying can cause an immense void between the people the couple once considered close. Unfortunately, many couples suffer and feel isolated. People do not realize that they are not alone, when dealing with infertility. The fact is, 15% of married couples experience infertility and the feelings and frustrations that tag along.

Whether alone or as a couple, during the time of infertility people experience various stages or psychological upheaval. The following are a few stages and the emotions people go through during the process of dealing with infertility.

Realization and Acknowledgement

Typically, couples assume that when the time is right, they will get pregnant once they have stopped taking birth control. However, as time passes, the anticipation of getting pregnant turns into concern. The couple will likely feel shock and dismay as they realize, their hopes of getting pregnant are not as easy as they thought. This will be hard news for any couple, especially for the couple who is used to getting what they want if they work hard enough for it.

At this point several questions start to plaque their daily lives. What if they are never able to have children? Could they be sterile? What is causing the problem? These thoughts will seem very frightening. They are likely to encounter a wide range of emotions before realizing that they may have a fertility problem

* The women tends to be the first to realize that they may have a fertility problem

* It may take some convincing before the man is willing to obtain medical help

* Feelings of frustration, anger, denial, guilt, blame, self-pity and jealousy may start to occur

* Disagreements that used to be little, may seem magnified

Evaluation and Diagnosis

By this stage, the couple is looking to find an answer to their inability to conceive. The testing period may be long, evasive, stressful and expensive, but the fact that they may find a diagnosis gives the couple hope. Having a doctor that the couple trusts and feels comfortable with is also reassuring, during this time of emotional upheaval. The couple is facing a whole new set of emotions on top of the ones they have already been experiencing.

* They feel a loss of control. It may seem as though



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