The stress of trying to get pregnant was tough on Joe and Janelle’s marriage. “What it did to us emotionally was horrible,” Janelle says in Making Your Marriage a Fortress by Gary Thomas. “We both felt inadequate, and at various times we ended up blaming each other and fighting depression, and Joe even underwent surgery. It was one thing after another that took a large toll on us and our marriage.”
If you’re trying to have children, it’s wise to be aware of the potential pitfalls to your relationship as well as what to expect if you don’t immediately conceive.
Dr. W. David Hager, a gynecologist who is also a longtime member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council, provides some do’s and don’ts for couples trying to get pregnant. First, try not to worry, he says.
It’s easy to worry, but Hager says stress affects people physically and can alter ovulation and sperm counts.
“Try your very best to relax and not rush the process,” Hager advises. He reminds couples that chances are good they’ll conceive. Even if the couple has problems with infertility, he notes that 50% of couples seeking treatment are eventually able to conceive. However, a percentage of them aren’t able to carry the child to term.
One warning sign of infertility is time: If a reproductive-aged wife is unable to conceive after trying for one year without using contraception, she and her husband should see a doctor. If the woman is over 35, the couple should see a doctor after six months of not being able to conceive.
The one-year timeline is a guide, not a rule, Hager notes. “Maybe the doctors aren’t going to find anything and you just need 18 months,” he says. “Very often I’ve had people come in saying they’ve been unable to conceive, and it’s been 14 or 15 months. I’m able to reassure them, and two months later I get a call that they’re pregnant.”
What are the do’s if you’re trying to conceive? Hager suggests that you:
- Do all you can to increase your chances.
- Trust the process.
- Support each other.
Increase your chances
If you’re trying to get pregnant, how can you increase your chances? Along with not worrying, Hager offers this advice:
“The key is to pray together, because sometimes couples are not on the same page about wanting to conceive,” he says. He also reminds his patients about the biblical examples of Sarah, Anna and Elizabeth — women who were infertile but were able to conceive by God’s grace.
Make sure you’re having sex around the time of ovulation, when a woman’s ovaries release an egg. Hager says it’s important for women to know the length of their cycles. Some women might have a 28-day menstrual cycle while others have a 35-day cycle. Women ovulate about 14 days before their next period, so it’s helpful to know your own cycle.
Wives can also keep track of their basal body temperature with a basal body thermometer. “Just prior to ovulation the basal body temperature takes a slight dip and then rises a few tenths of a degree on the day of ovulation,” Hager says. Buying an ovulation predictor kit at a pharmacy makes timing intercourse to ovulation even easier.
But don’t overdo the lovemaking. Having sex more than once a day can dilute the sperm count, Hager says.
Consider other factors
Medications might be affecting your ability to conceive.
“Perhaps your husband is taking a blood pressure medicine and it’s diluting or altering his sperm count, or perhaps you’ve been on a medication for hyperthyroidism and that’s affecting your ability to ovulate,” Hager says.
A primary care physician might suggest a different medication or discontinuing the one you’re on while you’re trying to get pregnant.
Trust the process
Most obstetricians and gynecologists are trained in the general management of infertility, Hager says.
Physicians will begin with basic lab tests to evaluate your health, looking for any issue that could affect fertility, such as diabetes, hypertension or heart, liver, or kidney disease. If they find nothing, they’ll evaluate ovarian function, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and sperm count.
“They’re managing things on a stepwise basis,” Hager says. “The first thing is to be patient. Trust the process and make sure you’re with a reliable physician.”
Testing is very specific and may reveal a disease, Hager says. “Don’t become alarmed if something is detected,” he says. For example, if you learn you have an underactive thyroid, treating that health issue may improve your fertility.
“So, trust the process, take your time, and very often you’re going to be able to conceive,” Hager says. “There are a number of surgical and medical conditions that we can effectively treat to allow for conception to occur.”
If you’re unable to conceive at the end of a period of time, your physician will recommend a reproductive endocrinologist.
Support each other
The key to keeping your relationship strong as you’re trying to get pregnant is to be positive and encouraging, Hager says. Blaming each other for not conceiving only hurts the marriage.
“Be positive, pray together, and encourage each other,” Hager advises. “Go to doctor’s visits together. I always want the husband to come with his wife as we’re working through this process.”
Should the wife go with her husband to the urologist? Not necessarily, Hager says, although he notes that it’s very important to support the husband, especially if he has a low sperm count.
“Most males are very discouraged by that, and they feel like they’re less than a man,” Hager says. “So be encouraging.”
If you and your spouse have been trying to conceive for quite a while, watch out for stress points in your life.
“You want to be careful that the stress level is not overwhelming and that it’s not adversely affecting the relationship,” Hager notes. “You don’t want the relationship and the marriage to break up over this.”
What helped Joe and Janelle
What happened to Janelle and Joe, the couple profiled in Making Marriage a Fortress? While their story is a cautionary one, it also shows that relationships can survive infertility.
Joe and Jannelle remained infertile, and the stress of their situation drove them apart. Eventually, they decided to work on their relationship. Author Gary Thomas writes that they began doing these four things that strengthened their marriage. They:
- Prayed more frequently individually and together.
- Became more open with each other.
- Strengthened their sexual and emotional connection.
- Became better friends.
Hager reminds his patients that more than 50% of the time, couples are able to successfully conceive.
“But if you’re not, always remember that there are thousands of babies out there wanting a home for adoption,” he says. “When you’ve tried everything and gone the route of in vitro fertilization, maybe even a couple of trials of in vitro fertilization, and you’re unsuccessful, it may be that you’re not going to be able to conceive.”
That’s when he asks couples to consider foster care or adoption.
“It is not God’s will that you don’t have children,” Hager tells his patients. “It may not happen, but He has a plan for you. Maybe in your particular situation, that plan is for you to raise children who were birthed by another mother. And there is nothing more beautiful than to see adopted children raised in a devout Christian home.”