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Marital Discord: an added burden of infertility

28 Aug 2015


“Flowers and chocolates gets replaced with ovulation and treatment calenders and sex may become so laden with a purpose that it may almost seem robotic”

Infertility is the inability to naturally conceive, carry or deliver a healthy child. Globally, infertility affects an estimated 10%-15% of couples of reproductive age. The stress of not being able to have a child or that resulting from repeated failures of various fertility treatments has been associated with emotional disturbances such as anger, depression, anxiety, marital problems and feelings of worthlessness among the parents.

Why infertility has a psychological effect on the couple?

Ability to bear a child is often associated with being a “complete woman” and male with infertility issues may perceive himself as “less manly”.  Men and women with fertility issues experience a sense of loss of identity and experience intense feelings of defectiveness and incompetence. Women trying to conceive often have clinical depression rates similar to women who have heart disease or cancer.

Partners may become more anxious to conceive leading to increasing sexual dysfunction and social isolation. A blame game kind of a situation emerges amongst the couple once they realise its taking to long to conceive. This may lead to more confrontations and more stressful moments with each other rather than a constructive way to look at the problem at hand. Inferiority complex and guilt may set in the partner who get diagnosed with infertility issues and this may lead to their withdrawing themselves from the other aspects of their relationship.

 Once a diagnosis is made regarding the infertility cause, marital discord often develops in infertile couples, especially when they are under pressure to make medical decisions. Fertility treatments are often expensive, time consuming and a lot of stigma is also associated with seeking fertility treatments, especially if it’s with the male partner.  

Therefore the psychological impact of infertility can be devastating to the infertile person and to their partner. Also, no fertility treatment guarantees 100% assurance that a couple will conceive after that so it becomes a very anxiety arousing moment for the couple to go ahead with the decision to try such a treatment. This may lead to frequent arguments or conflicts between the couple thus affecting their relationship negatively.

How Discord affects conception attempts through fertility treatments negatively?

Many couples presenting for infertility treatment have high levels of psychological distress associated with infertility and resulting marital discord and other psychological disturbances. Stress, depression and anxiety are described as common consequences of the marital discord and infertility issues and this may also lead to associated negative behaviours like cigarette smoking, alcohol use, decreased libido.

 The process of assisted reproduction itself is also associated with increased levels of anxiety, depression and stress. The physiology of the depressed / stressed state in an individual is seen as elevated prolactin levels, disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and thyroid dysfunction which could directly affect the fertility of a person negatively.

Thus, marital discord may not only affect your own quality of life and relationship but may also interfere with fertility treatments one may be seeking.


Tips to cope with Marital Discord and enjoy the Family you have:

1)      The communication block that couples experience is extremely common for couples that experience infertility. Anger, guilt and sometimes just the stress of thinking about the issue at hand may act as a road block. When you can't talk about the infertility, you tend to make assumptions about the intentions of your partners silence or actions and if this judgement is wrong it can actually drive you two apart. So the key is express your emotions even if they are negative in a more acceptable manner as silence can always be misunderstood.

For example, Write down three to four ways that the infertility has impacted you and pick a set time each week to talk about what you both have written.


2)      Join groups or forums where other couples with infertility issues discuss their feelings and hardships and how the overcame it. This will make you both feel a part of larger similar group and “why me” or “why us” feelings can be taken care of.

3)      Get the Spark back in your sexual life : Sex often becomes like a job for couples experiencing infertility issues which may actually inhibit the either of the partner from initiating sex for pleasure or love. To get back to the love, start afresh. Initiate a new courtship phase where you begin from more physical demonstration of love like cuddles and hugs and holding hands with your partner without leading it to the bed. Allow for spontaneity in expression of emotions , sex and other activities that you could do together to simply enjoy each other s company

4)      Moving forward: One partner may want to adopt while the other one may be of without any child and accept the situation as it is. This often leads to serious conflicts amongst couples. Again, resort to writing what each one wants and why and pros and cons of one’s decision and share this at a decided time with each other. This will help you know what your partner wants and how doable it is.

5)      Seek Professional guidance to work on your relationship and enjoy the relationship you have in your life even as you come to terms with the infertility issues either of you have. 


at, we have gynaecologists online who can provide you with a second opinion and help you in your starting the family journey.

We also have India's finest mental wellness experts to help you and your husband/wife get back on the journey of love again. 

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Tags: #marital discord #relationshipissues