Many couples go into a marriage with the expectation of starting a family in the future, but unfortunately, a medical diagnosis such as infertility can pause those plans. Because of the issue’s complexity, infertility can be hard on couples and can impact many aspects of a relationship, and in some cases, it could lead to a divorce.
Infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy after a year of trying or the failure to carry a pregnancy to full term. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five women of childbearing age cannot get pregnant after a year of trying to conceive. At the same time, the World Health Organization reports that an estimated 15% of couples worldwide are affected by infertility. This issue can affect both women and men and can be caused by a variety of factors. Fortunately, many approved treatments for both men and women can help improve the chances of getting pregnant. These include hormone treatments, fertility drugs, assisted reproduction therapies such as In vitro fertilization (IVF), and other medical techniques.
Infertility can cause depression, anxiety, social isolation, and sexual dysfunction and affect communication between spouses. A study published in the National Library of Medicine which evaluated the effect of infertility in marital relationships found that the difficulty in conceiving increased psychological stress and societal pressure to have children, which is the goal for some married couples. The study also found that in some cases, the man being infertile had no detrimental effects on marriage, some even reporting being happier in their marriages than their wives. In comparison, infertile women had much fewer stable marriages.
Other studies indicate that the divorce rate among couples unable to become pregnant is higher than among couples who received help for fertility issues and ultimately had a baby. A study of 47,500 Danish women published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica found that couples who experienced failed IVF treatments were three times more likely to end up divorced than those who were successful in conceiving. After twelve years of the failed fertility treatment study, 27% of the women reported no longer with their partner. Although IVF treatments help couples struggling with infertility, the process can be long, stressful, and exhausting and can put even the best relationship to the test.
Couples going through infertility may experience anger and resentment towards one another, sometimes wishing the process of conceiving was different. Some partners may feel shame and guilt about their inability to conceive. These emotions cause communication to break down between couples, resulting in arguments and avoidance.
While some reports suggest a link between infertility and divorce, other couples report that the struggle to conceive brought them closer together. Fertility treatments such as IVF can be controversial for some married couples. Still, a report by Medical News Today found that going through the treatments did not increase the likelihood of divorce. The researchers acknowledged that infertility could strain a relationship, but many couples can overcome the obstacles and grow a closer bond.
If you and your spouse are dealing with infertility, taking action is essential before it leads to complications in your marriage. One of the first things you can do is seek a fertility specialist to help you explore different treatment options. The second is to find a counselor who works with couples with fertility issues to help you and your spouse navigate the complex emotions that may arise. According to an article by Healthy Women, it’s also a good idea for couples to share their infertility struggles with their loved ones instead of keeping it a secret. Recent studies found that couples who hide their infertility struggles tend to isolate themselves more than those who speak up about their situation. In the end, couples will have that extra support and form closer connections with those around them. Couples may also benefit from speaking with others who have gone through infertility issues and have had positive outcomes.
Lastly, understand that you and your spouse may approach infertility differently. The person with the infertility diagnosis may feel guilty and ashamed, while the other spouse may feel angry or resentful towards them. Many times, infertility is out of a person’s control, which is why it’s best to avoid the blame game and instead be sensitive to their situation and offer love, support, and words of encouragement.
Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., recognizes that family law matters involve complex, sensitive issues that can have a lasting impact on you, your family, your finances, and your future. Because family law presents complicated issues whose outcomes are critical, experienced and compassionate advocates are essential. We offer skilled and professional guidance through the complex process of divorce.
by Debra Schoenberg