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My Infertility Made Me Feel so Guilty: A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 6 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
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“Many men think that finding out that you are infertile is a blow; it means you aren’t a proper man. I suppose I did feel a bit like that at first, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The hardest thing that I have had to come to terms with is that it’s my problem, but I’m not the one who has had to suffer most because of it. Seeing my wife go through what she had to in order to have our family was very hard and it makes me feel guilty every day.”

This is how Roger expresses the way he has felt about his infertility since discovering that he and wife Rachel’s problems were all down to him. The couple married 8 years ago, when they were both 24 and wanted to have a family straight away. “We didn’t really expect there to be a problem but months went by and after 2 years, we were really anxious about it,” says Roger.

Fertility Tests

The couple went through their first round of tests and the results were shattering. Although Rachel had no problems that were detectable, Roger had sperm that were not able to swim very well, and his sperm count was also quite low. “The consultant told us that, with my sperm how they were, we had a 1 in a thousand chance of conceiving naturally. I was really upset and worried – and was willing to try anything,” says Roger.

For six months, he ate a better diet, included foods rich in zinc and selenium and stopped drinking altogether before having another test. The results were exactly the same. “Our only option was IVF – one of my sperm would be used and injected directly into the eggs from Rachel. Nothing was going to happen naturally anymore,” he says.

Egg Collection and a Round of IVF

Rachel had to have hormone treatment to stimulate her ovaries to produce more eggs than usual so that the IVF team could obtain about 20 for the IVF procedure. “This made her feel very tired and sick all the time and she looked terrible. It was doubly devastating when the first round of IVF failed,” recalls Roger.

But worse was still to come. After a second round of treatment, Rachel did become pregnant but tests at the 12 week mark showed that the baby had a number of genetic abnormalities and the pregnancy would not have gone to term. The medical team advised an elective abortion on medical grounds. “I can’t explain what that time was like – Rachel tried not to let it show but she was completely destroyed by having to have that abortion. I was ready to give up and I felt so bad that it was my fault – if my sperm had been normal, she wouldn’t have had to go through this,” says Roger.

A Successful Pregnancy

After waiting six months, a third round of IVF treatment was started, with more egg collection and waiting. “Rachel became pregnant again and, this time, there were no problems at three months. But the stress and worry was really bad – every day that passed seemed to be fraught with worry and I thought we might split up over this...” says Roger sadly.

But the couple continued to talk together and as the pregnancy progressed normally, they almost began to relax. “When Juliet was born, the feeling was incredible and I then did think it was all worth it,” says Roger.

More IVF

Juliet is now nearly 4 and, since her birth, the couple have had three more rounds of IVF before Rachel has become pregnant with the second child, due at the end of 2009. “More treatment and more stress, most of it for Rachel. I think she has coped with this wonderfully well and she has kept me going – again that makes me feel so bad that it’s all down to me that we have had to do this. But the pregnancy is going well again and then we will call it quits. We are expecting a boy and our family is the most precious thing we could have,” says Roger.

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