Women and Self-Blame for Infertility

Article by Pamela Madsen, 2012

I have watched women assume all responsibility for conception for over 20 years in my role as President and Executive Director for RESOLVE NYC, as the Founder of The American Fertility Association and now in my role as a private fertility coach. I also remember what it was like when I was trying to conceive my own children. It was all about me. I was no different than all of the thousands of women I have talked to for years.

For many women, the decision to get pregnant can take on a life of its own. It was so affirming to see what I know to be true, represented in a new survey conducted for SpermCheck® Fertility. 42% of those who conceived say they became obsessed with getting pregnant once they started trying. Yet just 10% say their partner shared this obsession.

Approximately 7 million couples will experience conception issues and about 50% of these infertility problems will be directly attributed to the male, according to John C. Herr, Ph.D., director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health; most male infertility problems are mainly due to low sperm count, he adds.

Yet women are typically the ones to take action when conception is slow to happen, often undergoing a battery of sometimes invasive and typically costly testing. While analyzing the male’s sperm count is considered a key first step by infertility specialists – less than one-fifth of men (17%) ever get tested for their sperm count, according to the SpermCheck survey. And just 23% of the women surveyed in the SpermCheck survey who are currently pregnant or who have conceived a child said their partner did everything he could to get himself as healthy as possible before they started trying to conceive.

I think a part of this fear, is that there are a percentage of women (validated through the SpermCheck survey) that fear that their partner will leave them if they don’t get pregnant. Somehow, the assumption is that getting pregnant is her responsibility.

While there is absolutely nothing to be self-conscious about, many men are often reluctant or embarrassed to go to their healthcare provider to take a sperm count test, even if it means that their partner might take it upon herself to start having herself tested and in some cases begin taking fertility treatments.

The SpermCheck survey found that 8 out of 10 women (83%) trying to or planning to conceive say their partner assumes he is fertile, and 43% say their partner would like to know for sure that his sperm count is normal. A much higher number, more than two thirds of women surveyed (67%) say they would like to know their partner’s sperm count is normal when they start trying to get pregnant.

The following are highlights of this survey:

Fertility worries:

A little less than half (44%) of those trying/planning to conceive are worried that when they actually want to conceive, they won’t be able to because they tried hard for years to avoid pregnancy.

More than half (59%) of those trying/planning to conceive say they won’t tell people they are trying to get pregnant in case it doesn’t happen.

Almost half (49%) of women who took longer than expected to conceive indicated their significant other was not eager to have his sperm count tested.

23% of women who have conceived/trying to conceive would not seek advice or testing for their significant other if it was taking longer than expected to get pregnant.

More than a quarter (27%) of those trying/planning to conceive are embarrassed to discuss fertility with friends and family, and a similar number, 23%, say their partner is uncomfortable discussing male fertility issues.

So, if you are a woman trying to conceive with a man—please know that it’s really not all about you and you are not alone in feeling like it is! When it comes to baby making, it really does take two! Talk about it with your partner, he is way more receptive than you might think. And please—get his sperm count tested before you being any fertility treatment!

Got questions? Ask the Center!


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