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Infertility Takes a Huge Toll

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New study sheds light on what couples go through during IVF.
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Ronda Kaysen: Couples who struggle to get pregnant find their friendships with others strained, their self-esteem battered, and their relationships under stress, according to a recent survey.

More than 70 percent of women reported in a survey funded by Schering-Plough and Merck & Co. that infertility made them feel flawed, while half of men said they felt inadequate. More than half of couples said they hid their feelings from their partners, and 60 percent of couples said they got tired of hearing friends and family ask them how things were going.

"Couples undergoing fertility treatment clearly experience a rollercoaster of emotions," Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, said in a statement. "The desire to start a family is a strong one, and failing to achieve that can impact everything from the marital relationship to interactions with future grandparents and friends who become pregnant."

Infertility catches most people by surprise. However, it affects a large swath of the population -- about one in eight couples.

Couples report that they argue more and experience more tension in their relationship, and that trying to get pregnant has taken its toll on their sex life, making what was once a fun activity into an anxious process. However, the majority of couples say that despite the strife, their relationship is closer than it was before they experienced infertility. For example, 84 percent of women say their husbands make doctors appointments for them or accompany them to the visits, and 86 percent say their husbands help them with fertility drug injections.

It's the relationships with everyone else that seem to be the biggest problem. Many couples complained about unsolicited advice from friends and family about how to get pregnant. The biggest bit of unwanted advice from friends: stop worrying about it.

"Couples undergoing fertility treatment often turn inward and stop confiding in family and friends because of the pain involved in talking about their struggle to conceive," Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said. "It's important for couples to know that extensive resources exist to support them throughout the process."

The best thing friends and family members can do for a couple trying to conceive? Be quiet and listen.

Ronda Kaysen: Couples who struggle to get pregnant find their friendships with others strained, their self-esteem battered, and their relationships under stress, according to a recent survey.


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