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The Nominee for Best Supporting Role in IVF Is ...

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a blog by David Kreiner, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., East Coast Fertility, May 23, 2011

Many husbands complain that they feel left out of the whole in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, as all of the attention and care is apparently directed toward the woman.

Performance on Demand

If anything, husbands may feel that at best they can show up for the egg retrieval, at which time they are expected to donate their sperm on demand. If you should fail at this, then all the money, time, hope and efforts were wasted — all because you choked when you could not even perform this one “simple” step. I have not witnessed the terror
and horrors of war, but I have seen the devastation resulting from an IVF cycle failed as a result of a husband’s inability to collect a sperm specimen.

Relationships often do not survive in the wake of such a disappointment.

Talk about performing under pressure — there is more at stake in the sperm collection room than there is for pitchers in the World Series. I would recommend that a husband freeze a sperm specimen collected on a previous day when he does not have the intense pressure of having to produce at that moment or else. Having the insurance
of a back up frozen specimen takes much of the pressure off at the time of egg retrieval, making it that much easier to produce a fresh specimen.

In addition, there are strategies that can be planned for special circumstances, including arranging for assistance from your wife and using collection condoms so that the specimen can be collected during sexual intercourse. Depending on the program these alternatives may be available.

Differing Perspectives

Men view IVF from a different perspective than their wives or female partners. The men are not the ones being injected with hormones; commuting to the fertility clinic
frequently over a two-week span for blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds, and undergoing a transvaginal needle aspiration procedure.

Women are involved in the entire IVF process, speak with and see the IVF staff regularly, and understand what they are doing. Women are deeply invested emotionally and physically in this experience.

So what is a husband to do?

Get Involved

The couples that appear to deal best with the stress of IVF are the ones who do it together.

Many husbands learn to give their wives the fertility medication injections. It helps involve them in the efforts and gives them some degree of control over the process. They can relate better to what their wives are doing and take pride that they are contributing toward the common
goal of achieving the baby.

When possible, husbands should accompany their wives to the fertility doctor visits. They can interact with the staff, get questions answered and obtain a better understanding of what is going on. This not only makes women feel like their husbands are supportive, but is helpful in getting accurate information and directions.

Both of these things are so important that in a husband’s absence I would recommend that a surrogate — such as a friend, sister or mother — be there if he cannot be. Support from others helps diminish the level of stress, especially
if it comes from the husband and helps to solidify the couple's relationship.

Husbands should also accompany their wives to the embryo transfer. This can be a highly emotional procedure. Your embryo/s is being placed in the womb, and at least in that moment many women feel as if they are pregnant.

Life may be starting here, and it is wonderful for a husband to share this moment with his wife. Perhaps he may keep the Petri dish as a keepsake as the “baby’s first crib”. It is an experience a couple is not likely to forget as their first time together as a family.

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