It is estimated that between 11 and 15 per cent of Canadians are unable to conceive a child. That can cause enormous stress for some of the half-million couples affected.
Many different emotions surface and they may come at different times for each person in the couple. “They can be sad, angry, confused, frustrated,” says Carolynn Dubé, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, an advocacy group. “So, relationships can be quite strained. There’s some shame, some blame.”
Men and women may react differently
Women often ask themselves “what’s wrong with me?” Men may link their infertility with their sexuality or masculinity. “So, the way that a male and a female are processing these emotions can be difficult and quite straining on a relationship.”
How bad can it get? Dubé says her own new husband realized he had infertility issues and said he would understand if she divorced him. Happily, they did not and now have three children. But not all couples can cope with the stress and they may end up divorcing.
High costs can add to stress
Beyond the emotional stress, there is often financial difficulty in trying to come up with the thousands of dollars it can cost for infertility treatments. And visits to fertility clinics can be time-consuming causing couples to miss work, leisure and social activities.
Not much support is available through the public health system. The eastern province of Prince Edward Island is rare in that it offers mental health services to infertile couples. The services of psychologists are not covered or are restricted in most provinces.
Couples who have extra health benefits through insurance provided by their companies may have access to psychologists. Others can access some online peer support groups. Dubé says it can be very helpful to reach out to people who have gone through the same experiences.
Carolyn Dubé explains the stress of infertility.Listen