pregnancy

"It was gut-wrenching." What it's like to watch your partner go through IVF.

Couples who have struggled to conceive a longed-for baby and then been through IVF, know just how emotional and challenging the process can be. 

While the woman hoping to become pregnant has a number of medical procedures, regular monitoring and hormonal changes to go through, her support partner has a different experience to navigate from the sidelines.

Mamamia spoke to four partners to find out what the IVF journey was like from their perspective, as well as senior fertility nurse Samantha Costa for her professional advice.

Watch the trailer for Mamamia's fertility podcast, Get Me Pregnant. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Leon is husband to Carla and dad to 11-month-old Lennon.

Leon was hands-on from the very start, able to act as a buffer between medical staff and his wife Carla.

“I tried to be at every single appointment for support,” Leon says.

“Even though I was sitting quietly through most of them, it was important to get news and updates (good or bad) together to make sure my wife didn’t feel alone through any of it. 

At times Leon felt helpless, but their relationship remained strong throughout the process.

“It was difficult because 99% of the work was done by Carla. But I coped fairly well emotionally because I never really considered that it wouldn’t work.”

 “I was definitely in awe of her strength to get through it and keep going back for multiple cycles. The fact that it didn’t push us apart reinforced that we were great together, hopefully Carla agrees!”

Leon, Carla and baby Lennon: Image: Supplied.  

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The greatest challenge for Leon was when he had to be away. 

“There few times that Carla’s mum went with her for an appointment. Another time when I was away, Carla got the call saying the pregnancy test was negative. 

“That was hard for both of us and being in separate states with limited phone contact was extremely challenging. My boss had to give me some support that day. I also had to try to balance being strong for both of us, while letting Carla know I was also feeling as disappointed as she was.”

Miriam is partner to Kristy and mum to three-year-old Oliver.

Same-sex couple Miriam and Kristy talked a lot before they started IVF about how Miriam could best emotionally support Kristy during the process. 

“I aimed to be there for Kristy as comfort but also an extra voice in case she felt uncomfortable or unsure about anything that was about to happen,” Miriam explains. 

“Then I could ask questions to the specialist on her behalf too. I was present at all appointments including the actual inseminations. I was also asked to hold the tube of sperm momentarily which was pretty cool since we used donor sperm!”

Oliver and Miriam: Image: Supplied.  

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Miriam says that one of the hardest parts was the waiting game but that ultimately it was worth it!

“The whole process feels pretty slow when you are wanting so badly to have a baby. So much effort, time and energy go into each transfer or insemination that it is really disheartening when the result is negative. No mental preparation is enough but saying that, we would still do it all over again!

Miriam’s advice for anyone about the start an IVF journey as the support partner is straightforward.

“Keep communicating and be there for each other. It is an uncomfortable process for both partners so it’s important to make sure you understand each other’s needs. It’s not only the partner who is having IVF that will feel affected by a negative test result.”

Rob is husband to 36-weeks pregnant Leah and dad to two-year-old Margot. 

The early days of watching Leah do everything herself were the hardest for Rob.

“Initially all I could do was listen to her and do more stuff around the house,” Rob says.

“It was impressive to watch how Leah just got on with the many aspects of IVF including self-injecting. She powered through it and while I really wanted to help, I had to accept I couldn’t do much, which was hard.”

Rob, Leah and Margot at a computer at the IVF clinic showing the embryo that has resulted in her current pregnancy. Image: Supplied. 

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After three unsuccessful rounds of IVF followed by a fourth success that resulted in baby Margot, Rob admits he needed to deal with what they went through and so they sought out counselling.

“We had unresolved issues with grief and couples counselling was helpful for us to stop and talk through what we had experienced. I recommend that anyone about to start IVF organises counselling, it’s worth every cent.”

Something else Rob feels was important was to ensure they knew what their life plan was if IVF didn’t work. 

“I needed to know we had a back-up plan if kids were not a part of our future, so we discussed what our lives would look like without kids. Also, we agreed that we would both be okay if our last attempt for a sibling for Margot didn’t work out. Communication at every step was very important.” 

Robbie is husband to Louise and dad to 16-week-old baby Liam.

Robbie believes that going through IVF is something you simply can’t prepare for.

“Louise only ever wanted to be a mum and the highs and lows of 13 rounds of IVF were extremely challenging for both of us,” Robbie says.

“The hardest part for me was watching Louise go through treatment so many times only to have her hopes dashed. There was only so much I could do and it was gut wrenching.”

As the support partner, Robbie stayed strong and tried to keep a sense of humour for them both.

“There were some tough times but I would always be there to pick Louise up when she needed it. I even made a joke book for her at one point to take her mind off things and to make her laugh!

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“The ups and downs of IVF did put pressure on the relationship but the experience has made us stronger too.”

Hosts Leigh Campbell and Rachel Corbett chat to fertility specialist, Manuela Toledo, about how to get your body and mind ready if you're trying for a baby and what your partner can do to help on the Get Me Pregnant podcast. Post continues below. 

Samantha Costa is a senior clinical specialist nurse (fertility) and clinical research nurse, from Queensland Fertility Group. 

Samantha believes that couples should aim to take a united approach to an IVF journey from the beginning.

“Talking to a counsellor before IVF starts is really healthy to ensure the couple understand the reality of what’s ahead. This also ensures couples have an opportunity to discuss each other’s boundaries. For example, if both partners know that three or four cycles of IVF is the agreed limit.”

In terms of how a partner can help, Samantha advises always being practically supportive as well as emotionally understanding.

“I tell partners that they might need to do a bit more around the home as their loved one might be extra tired or not feeling great. I also advise support partners to consider modifying their diet or reducing alcohol consumption. I know it not easy, but it shows how committed you are to the journey and your partner’s physical and mental wellbeing.”

Something else Samantha believes couples need to consider is maintaining their bond.

“At some point during the cycle many fertility clinics will recommend a break from sex. This might be up to two weeks which for some couples is fine but for others is a challenge. 

“I always say to couples that this is the time they can look after each other in different ways. Give massages or go for walks together and hold hands. 

“It is so important to stay connected as a couple so that hopefully when your baby arrives, your relationship remains as solid as ever.”

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

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Feature Image: Supplied. 

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