Keegan Prue, author of The IVF Dad offers his support and guidance…..
This DM popped into my Instagram inbox late on a Sunday night:
“Hey, I was really happy to find your IVF Dad account. My wife and I have been struggling to get pregnant for the past year, and recently found out we’re likely going to need to do IVF to give us any chance of having kids. To be honest, I’m overwhelmed. I want to be supportive, but I feel like I need to be strong given what we’re facing. I never expected this, and don’t really know the first thing about fertility treatments.
I guess I’m just looking for any advice you can offer…where do I even begin?”
Since becoming active in the fertility community and publishing my book, The IVF Dad, I’ve received so many messages from men who find themselves in exactly this place. And I can relate. I felt just the same way five years ago when my wife and I first realized we were struggling to conceive: overwhelmed, confused, upset, and wondering where to start.
Most of all though, I wanted to support my wife Olivia as best and as fully as I possibly could. Ultimately, that’s what I find most men want to do as well during fertility treatments.
So without further ado, here are three simple steps men can take straight away to support their partners during the fertility journey.
Study up and learn about how fertility treatments work
I’ll never forget the first time I listed to a fertility podcast where someone shared their journey in full, unvarnished detail. I was totally bewildered! There are shots involved? It can cost thousands? And there’s no guarantee that it will work? I had a lot to learn, but I spent the next several weeks devouring every podcast, blog, and other resource I could find about fertility treatments.
I found this learning period helped me support my wife better for a couple of reasons. First, I felt better able to engage in discussions about potential treatments, and that I was well-equipped to participate in discussions with our fertility doctors as we started to reach out to clinics.
Second, and more importantly, solidifying my understanding of how fertility treatments work helped me empathize, understand, and appreciate the amount of work and pain it would demand from Olivia. I was, frankly, in awe that she was willing to go through everything IVF would entail in order to give us a chance at our dreams. Having this knowledge inspired me even more to ensure that I was supporting and showing her gratitude.
Do Your Part – check and improve your sperm health!
One of the mind blowing statistics I encountered early on in doing the research I just described was that current studies estimate as many as 40-50% of infertility cases involve male factor issues. While I was willing to do whatever was necessary to increase our odds of IVF success, this fact really hit home in explaining just how critical it was to get my semen analysis as soon as possible and to learn about ways to improve my sperm health.
So lads, be sure to do your part: get your semen analysis as soon as possible. And even better, take steps to improve your sperm health. While there’s no silver bullet, the body generates new sperm cells in roughly 2-3 months, so sustained efforts on your part may prepare and optimize your swimmers to give the best odds of success. A few easy places to start? Work to decrease your intake of processed foods and instead choose more fruits and vegetables. Integrate more opportunities for exercise into your week (this can be as simple as taking a nice long walk or hike). And of course, look to reduce alcohol intake and if you smoke – stop!
You don’t have to do all of these things at once, but remember: our partners go through so much – it’s the least we can do! Guys may also find that having clear actions you can take to do your part feels good, too, and gives you something to focus on. Most importantly though, taking these steps of getting your semen analysis and working to optimize your sperm health shows your partner that you really view the fertility journey as something you’re in together.
Commit to open communication and sharing your feelings
Alright men, did you read that last item and start to get a bit nervous? I get it. As men, we spend our entire lives hearing messages from society that sharing our feelings, especially when we’re sad or upset, is not OK, or not something that “real men” do. We don’t have time to unpack all of those stereotypical and damaging messages here, but just know that if opening up about your feelings is the scariest part of your fertility journey, you’re not alone.
However, being a supportive partner during infertility will be infinitely easier if you can commit to opening up – just a bit at a time – and sharing those feelings with your partner.
Here are a couple tips that might help you start to open up:
- Start by doing some writing. Just take out a piece of paper and pen and write down how you’re feeling about the struggles on your path to parenthood. You don’t need to show this writing to anyone, but it can really help you to just start identifying what you’re feeling. Try starting with filling in the blank on this sentence: “Struggling to get pregnant is making me feel ______.” Then write on from there.
- Schedule some time to discuss how you’re feeling with your partner while doing something active-taking a walk or drive, perhaps. Many men find it’s easier to open up while they’re doing something as opposed to “sitting down to talk.”
Moving Forward in the Journey
A few weeks later, after sharing some advice just like the three tips above, I heard back from the man who had sent me the message on Instagram.
“Hey again Keegan…thanks for those tips you shared. It’s been a few weeks, and it hasn’t been easy but I do feel like I’m getting a better understanding of what to expect during IVF. And me and my partner have been talking more about what treatment might be like, what we’re nervous about, and what kinds of choices we might have to make. It’s step by step, but I feel like a stronger partner in this really tough process.”
Saying infertility is hard is an understatement. It’s one of the hardest things anyone will ever go through. But I hope these three small tips will help others out there as you set out on the journey. While it takes constant dedication, it is possible to strengthen and deepen your relationship with your partner even through really difficult times. Above all, if you’re struggling, know there are lots of resources out there from books to the community of support online. And as I always say- my inbox is open. If I can help, don’t hesitate to reach out.
You can follow Keegan on Instagram @TheIVFDad, or at his website TheIVFDad.com. His book, The IVF Dad, is available on Amazon (links below!) A portion of proceeds from the book go to support organizations that make grants to support families to afford fertility treatment.
Keegan Prue is an author and educator from upstate New York. Keegan and his wife’s infertility journey involved two rounds of IVF, two miscarriages, and three embryo transfers, finally resulting in the birth of their two daughters in 2020 and 2022. After enduring this difficult road to parenthood, Keegan decided to write a book, The IVF Dad, to share their story and to inform and empower men and couples so that they can support each other through their fertility path. Part of the proceeds of each copy of The IVF Dad sold goes to support foundations that make grants to couples to support the cost of fertility treatment. You can connect with Keegan on Instagram @TheIVFDad, and at TheIVFDad.com.