By Martha Diamond, Ph.D. and Janet Jaffe, Ph.D.
Giving or getting shots is one of the scariest parts of infertility treatment for both men and women – and for different reasons. For women, the shots hurt and the hormones can cause significant mood fluctuations, bloating, and overall discomfort. On top of that, the shots make the upcoming procedure that much more real, raising hopes as well as anxiety. For men, a range of feelings may emerge: from feeling positive, as an active participant in the treatment, to feelings of dread as the one inflicting pain. So much is at stake; it’s no wonder both men and women feel overwhelmed at this crucial time.
Because women bear the brunt of the invasive medical procedures in an infertility workup, men often feel helpless as they watch their partner go through test after test. He may feel out of the loop, standing helplessly on the sidelines, while his partner is the focus of treatment. Administering the shots may give him a sense of being included in an active way. Rather than feeling powerless, he can feel like an effective contributor. Other times, however, men may get anxious and not want to participate, fearful of causing their partner pain or of making a mistake. Sometimes schedules make it impossible for men to participate, adding to the frustration for both of you.
Women, too, vary in whether they prefer their partner’s help or want to give themselves the injections. Because the situation can be so tense, tempers may erupt. To avoid arguments, some women opt to maintain control and not rely on their partner’s assistance.
Remember, there is no right or wrong here; do whatever makes you and your spouse the most comfortable. If you disagree, remember that it’s not just the physical act of giving shots that is fueling the tension between you, it’s the months of procedures and disappointments that have left you both depleted. Each of you has your own conscious and unconscious feelings about the infertility and its treatment, and you may not always be on the same page. Try not to take your spouse’s attitude personally. If he is not comfortable giving shots, it is not because he doesn’t care, and if she does not want him to, it is not because she doesn’t trust him. You are both, understandably, very anxious and stressed.
Here are three tips that can make getting and giving the shots a bit easier:
- Draw a target on your skin to give you or your partner the exact place to aim. This can lower anxiety about hitting a nerve or otherwise making an error.
- Practice injecting a piece of fruit,. Try an orange to give you the sensation of the correct angle and pressure.
- Do a practice shot in your doctor’s office (without medicine) under the watchful eye of a professional. That way, if you have any questions you can get them answered right then, as well as receive tips. Sometimes couples will go to their doctor’s office and administer the first real shot there, just for the reassurance of the supervision.
Even if your partner does not want to give the injections, he can still help and provide support while you do it. Perhaps it can be his job to mix the serum, fill the syringe, mark the spot, and give you a hug after it’s over. That way, he can still be involved and you will feel less alone.
Finally, try to keep your sense of humor about the shots. Couples are often very tense about the injections and tempers can flare. Try not to judge your partner for how you each cope with this unnatural and unromantic method of making a baby. If you can step back and laugh at the absurdity of the situation, it is easier to stay connected during this most difficult part of the reproductive experience.
About the Authors
Martha Diamond, Ph.D. and Janet Jaffe, Ph.D. are both psychologists who also experienced infertility first-hand. Co-founders and co-directors of the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, CA, they also co-authored Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility (St. Martin’s Press, 2005).
This article originally appeared in the RESOLVE New England Fall 2007 Newsletter.