To see their dream come true, many couples must fight with everything they have. In Canada, the infertility rate has doubled in the past 20 years! It went from 8.5% in 1992 to 16% in 2012. What do couples have to go through during this conception delay?
The fecundation miracle
Infertile or hypofertile? Infertility is the lack of conception after a year of sexual intercourse without contraception. The World Health Organization established this criterion. Hypofertile or subfertile people are not infertile. They simply have more difficulty conceiving than average.
Is having a baby as natural and easy as making love? Not at all! We cannot control fertility by taking the pill and stopping it, as if it was a fertility switch. Moreover, you do not become fertile overnight after stopping oral contraceptives. Even if some women can get pregnant one month after stopping the pill, the effects of the pill can remain in the body for up to 18 months, until the natural cycle falls back into place. Women, who were under the impression of controlling their body, become controlled by it and it is hard to handle in a world that goes so fast, waiting for your body to get ready.
Many factors influence the success of fecundation. At 35, 17% of women will not become pregnant and this proportion will double after 40. The partner’s health also plays a role in the odds to conceive. And even in ideal conditions, a fertile couple only has a 25% chance to get pregnant for every menstrual cycle, even when having sexual intercourse on the day of ovulation. It is normal to wait up to 6 or 7 months before conceiving.
Even after calculating all these percentages, fecundation is a miracle in itself. The crazy race of a sperm trying to reach the egg is prodigious. At first, they are millions in the vagina. Still, only 1% of these valiant racers manage to cross the cervix. Then comes the race against the clock. Once the egg is released, only 200 will have a successful journey in the fallopian tubes. Only one lucky winner will fertilize the egg.
Living with infertility
When the stork is not coming, both partners experience various feelings. In a world where the social norm is to have children, the couple feels different and not socially recognized. Shame, inferiority, guilt, helplessness and stress come with every menstrual cycle. They also feel frustrated to see other women pregnant and fear to never be able to conceive. Finally, desire turns to obsession when we see no result.
A child represents the natural achievement of the couple, its projection in the future and its purpose. Infertility can destroy the union and the individual that form it, and their self-esteem: the image of femininity and virility, symbols of sexual identity, are affected. The identity of mother and father also seem impossible, Finally, when one’s pain is too intense for the other, or when the desire to conceive and the feeling of failure is stronger than the couple, a separation can occur.
The couple’s sexuality is also affected. Repeated attempts trivialize sex that soon becomes as mechanical as brushing your teeth. The absence of results kills the desire. Also, planning sexual intercourse around ovulation is a “love-killer” and often takes away all spontaneity and pleasure. This situation can even cause blockages and dysfunctions in sexuality.
Finally, friendships can also be affected. When a couple sees her friend’s children, they can feel jealousy or injustice. Or, on the contrary, the pain can be hidden in disproportionate insensitivity. The solution may even be found in changing friends.
Many researches have shown that letting go can help solve unexplained infertility. Seeking psychological help or consulting a sexologist can be beneficial for the couple but can also help each partner to question and understand the situation. The psychological aspect of conceiving is certainly not negligible.
From the workshop 1+1=3? about the desire for children and the conception delays, for couples seeking pregnancy, created by Élisabeth Brodeur, sexologist in training at Seréna Québec.