This is paid content as part of a partnership between Good Men Project and Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
There are a few big steps that every couple faces when going the distance in their relationship; deciding to be “exclusive,” meeting each other’s parents, moving in together, etc., but agreeing to start a family is one of the biggest. It can immediately cause excitement, stress, “how-are-we-ever-going-to-afford-a-child” second thoughts and a host of other emotions. While family-building may seem like a natural step for two people in love, it doesn’t always come easily. In fact, one in eight couples struggle with infertility.1
One factor that can impact a couple’s ability to conceive is stress. Everyone experiences stress; some of it is from positive events like a new job; and other stressors are from events we’d prefer to avoid, like getting fired from that job. Distress is one of the many negative emotions that we feel as a response to something unanticipated, undesired, unfamiliar, or unnerving happening in our lives. It tends to be triggered when we feel out of control. Other subsequent reactions to stress can include anger, anxiety, sadness, and irritability. These feelings can affect any and all parts of our lives, including our love lives and our fertility.
The stress resulting from trying to start or grow your family can be daunting and simply telling yourself – or being told by someone else – to “relax” rarely works. For this reason, I have teamed up with Drs. Alice Domar, Elizabeth Grill and Janet Takefman to develop FertiSTRONG, an app sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
This free app is the first of its kind as it is designed specifically for men on their family-building journey. It serves to empower men by providing more than 500 custom coping options for over 50 specific fertility-related situations that have the potential to cause distress while offering techniques and strategies to handle common scenarios related to facing infertility.
FertiSTRONG targets the stress and nagging concerns that a male partner can feel:
- “What if the infertility is my fault?”
- “I wish other people would stop asking us when we plan to start our family.”
FertiSTRONG also provides ideas to better support one’s partner through the infertility process:
- “I am scared to tell her about my sister’s pregnancy.”
- “I wish I knew what to do or say to better comfort her.”
A couple’s love life is an extremely important component to maintaining a healthy relationship. Trying to conceive is intrinsically linked to a couple’s sexual relationship and intimacy can certainly fall out of balance while attempting to build a family. Experiencing infertility can come out of the blue and you may feel isolated and alone.
If you’re feeling pressure to remain positive and supportive, FertiSTRONG provides you with plenty of solutions you can use to stay cool under personal, familial and societal pressure on your relationship, your love life and more specifically, your family-building journey, such as:
- Mini relaxation exercises—the next time you feel anxious, try this breathing technique; take four seconds to inhale, hold your breath for four more seconds and then take another four seconds to exhale
- Snappy comeback lines—the next time someone asks you an insensitive question, you will be prepared with calm non-defensive answers
- Behavioral solutions—tips and strategies when uncomfortable situations arise
- Cognitive strategies—when negative thoughts overwhelm you, guided solutions to more realistic ways to approach the challenge
- Finding the humor—finding a way to laugh can be a powerful antidote
- Taking care of your needs—recommendations for activities that can help you feel calm and in control
Providing men with tools to cope and manage stress or anxiety is extremely important, especially in today’s world when the man in an infertile couple may well be struggling to balance his needs with his desire to support his partner. It’s important to recognize that men can face obstacles when it comes to fertility and provide them with tools and resources to help them along the way.
To those trying to start a family and experiencing some bumps in the road, I encourage you to keep trying. There are so many people out there who are experiencing the same thing and there are currently more support outlets than ever to help you not only get through this time with your partner but also direct you to assistance. Be strong enough to ask questions. Take action and download the FertiSTRONG app to guide you along your journey. Have the strength to seek tools to reduce your stress and most importantly, never give up.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility FAQs: How long should couples try to get pregnant before seeing a doctor? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/. Accessed May 8, 2018.