Best Supporting Role is…
By Dr. David Kreiner
Many partners express feeling left out of the whole IVF process as all the attention and care is directed towards the woman. Their part is focused on their collecting a semen specimen at the time of their partner’s retrieval…on demand. If they fail then all the money, time, hope and efforts were wasted all because they “choked” when asked to perform this one “simple task.” I have not witnessed the horrors of war, but I have seen the devastation resulting from an IVF cycle failed as a result of a partner’s inability to collect a specimen. Relationships do not always survive this catastrophe. Talk about pressure…there is more at stake in the collection room than in the World Series. Partners view IVF from a different perspective than women actually going through hormone injections, monitoring and retrieval. They are not the ones coming to the office for the vaginal ultrasounds and frequent blood drawing nor undergoing the transvaginal needle aspiration. At least women speak with and see the IVF staff regularly and have opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns. They are deeply invested physically and emotionally in this experience. So, what is the male partner to do?
Those couples that deal best with the stress of IVF are the ones that do it together.
A partner’s experience when going through an IVF cycle varies depending in large part on how involved they get. When a partner participates actively with the IVF process it helps to relieve much of the stress on their partner and on the relationship. The more involved he is the more he will feel more invested in the entire experience and more in control over the outcome.
Many partners pride themselves in their new-found skill with mixing medications and administering injections for their partner. It helps many individuals who are used to caring for their partner to support them by administering the medication for them. Successful IVF then becomes something he’s has played a very active role in and related better to the experience, his partner and the resulting baby.
Despite a lack of prior experience, most people can learn to prepare and administer the medication. Whether it is the feeling of “playing doctor” or the knowledge that he is contributing significantly in the process and supporting their partner, most individuals relate that giving their partner the injections was a positive experience for them and for their relationship.
Along the same line of thinking, accompanying a partner at the time of embryo transfer can be most rewarding. This can be a highly emotional procedure. The embryo is being placed in her womb and at least in that moment many women feel as if they are pregnant. Life may be starting here, and it is wonderful to share this moment with a partner.
With regards to the pressure of performing on the day of retrieval one can significantly reduce the stress by freezing a specimen before hand and this way have insurance just in case. Often just taking the pressure off to produce a specimen on demand allows for more effective production. Fortunately, today we also freeze eggs so that the catastrophes of the past no longer exist as we are able to freeze the eggs for another day when sperm becomes available.