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How to Ask Your Partner for Support During IVF

If you are going through IVF, show this to your partner.

Source: iStock/FatCamera

Hey, Partners!

Did you know that being in a positive, supportive relationship is the strongest predictor of a woman’s pre-baby emotional stability?1 In fact, it’s even more important for their emotional survival during a fertility journey than work or family.

I asked my patients going through IVF and ovum donation for advice they’d give to all husbands and other partners.

“How can they help?” I asked.

Here are some of their answers. First the “Do’s”

1. Do ask open-ended questions: "What do you think of the physician.” “How bad are the injections.” Then, let her talk. Talking is an inborn stress reducer.

Repeat what she says to let her know that you were really listening and accept what she is saying. Repeating also lets her hear herself, and correct herself if statements are overstated or understated.

2. Do ask what makes her feel better. Remind her that it does count as caring if she has to tell you. You’re not a mind-reader.

Then follow-up a few hours later. And ask again the next day. We know it’s tempting to say nothing and hope the anxiety or blues will get better magically, but it’s feeling supported and understood that makes them better.

Resist trying to “fix” her feelings or problems. This may seem like you're trying to take over, which may increase her sense of helplessness and frustration rather than reduce it.

3. Do be patient. If she is nauseous, hormonal, or sleepless, it’s for both of you. If she is not, she is going through the same anxiety, anticipation, or disappointment as you are – plus hormonal changes at the same time.

4. Do be practical. Stock up on soda and crackers for nausea and other side effects of IVF medications. Throw out the garbage more often and use mouthwash because hormonal women become hypersensitive to odors. Get her a body pillow so she can sleep on her side if she has water retention during treatment. Read books on IVF so you know what she’s talking about, and you can reassure her when she’s anxious. Little things mean a lot.

5. Do try to accompany on doctor’s visits. It’s your journey, too, and accompanying her lets her know that you know it. Besides,

  • You can help with reviewing what the doctor said
  • You can ask questions she may have forgotten
  • You can supply more information to the doctor than she can alone
  • You can share the excitement of seeing the sonogram or hearing the heartbeat
  • You can share the disappointment if there is a loss

6. Do remind her that you love her. She may not be feeling put together like the woman on the fertility treatment pamphlet in the physician’s office. Enough said.

The “Don’ts”

1. Don’t use clichés: even if it’s really how you feel. Clichés don’t sound sincere. Skip the philosophy, too. “It could be worse” is not comforting. It minimizes her feelings. Better to say nothing or she won’t open up next time.

2. Don’t do anything she can’t do. If your partner is pre-pregnant or pregnant, don’t drink in front of her, use the sauna, eat aged cheese or shellfish, or do strenuous exercise around her. My patients tell me it feels like their partner is either oblivious, thoughtless, or even mean. They say they may forgive it, but they don’t forget it.

3. Don’t give too much advice. Your motives may be the best, but a University of Iowa study found that about one-third of men and women who received too much information from their partner during stressful times, unwanted advice-giving, had the highest rate of marital decline2.

4. Don’t say “I know how you feel.” Your partner’s silent reaction may well be: No, you don’t. Most of my IVF patients say no one really “understands” unless they have been through the same thing. Help her connect with a group through ASRM, Resolve, AFA, an online anonymous group, or a local group through your fertility specialist, program, or counselor.

5. Don’t stop her from crying, or verbalizing. You may worry that she seems out of control, but she is more likely just reacting to a situation that seems out of control – infertility. Reassure her that her feelings make sense to you, and you will find that they will usually auto-correct themselves. If they don’t, suggest that you both consult her doctor about the emotional side-effects of IVF.

These “Do’s” and “Don’ts” have the same message: listen, listen, listen. Listen to what she is actually saying with her words, or with her behavior. And if you are not sure about how to help, ask her. Then talk about what worked and what didn’t. Let her know that you know that you are in this together.


1. BioMed Central. "'Pre-baby blues' ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2011


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