A 38-year-old woman has asked Mumsnet users for advice because she is thinking about leaving her partner of 11 years as he is unable to have children.
In the post, user backoftheplane refers to her partner as her ‘husband,’ despite the fact that they are not married. She reveals that, last year, they found out that they had no chance of conceiving because of his infertility.
The poster wrote that she would like to try intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which may require a small operation for him. Her partner has said he wants to think about it and gets angry when it is brought up. She explained his reluctance to try other options has led her to consider leaving.
According to the National Institute of Health, about 9 percent of men and 11 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States have experienced fertility problems.
The poster explained that “When it’s the opposite way (my situation) – a woman who is with a male partner with male factor infertility, the overwhelming advice is to leave because otherwise the female partner will regret not having children.”
She wrote that she knows that leaving does not automatically mean she will have children with anyone else: “I just think about the future and feel so sad and lonely. I also live on the other side of the world to all my family and good friends, and I just don’t know where to turn.”
Kevin Campbell, a reproductive urologist specializing in male fertility at the University of Florida, told Newsweek that this is a situation he sees on a weekly basis.
“Couples deal with male factor infertility in a wide variety of ways. Some couples explore the diagnosis for intervention and possible correction or ways to navigate a pregnancy,” said Campbell. “For others, it may serve as a point of contention and even worn like a stigma, which shouldn’t be the case.
“One to 2 percent of men will not have sperm in their ejaculate. This may be due to issues with hormones, congenital factors, recent illness, duct blockages, or a number of other causes. Some are correctable, possibly with medications or procedures to either optimize sperm deliver or obtain sperm for IVF.
“In men who don’t have any sperm, or in couples who are open to extending their options, donor gametes with sperm, eggs, or embryos can be used. Additionally, the couples may proceed to adoption.
“Because of the time and effort (emotional, physical, financial) that goes into these decisions, communication and a team approach is key,” said Campbell.
“The couple in the article are coming to their fertility barrier at different levels of vulnerability. The female partner has relayed that she is interested in a child and is even willing to undergo invasive processes, but she doesn’t get the same response from her partner.
“The scenario comes from one perspective, but we get the sense that he doesn’t want to explore the topic. Perhaps he feels that this reflects him as a person, or moreover that, with reduced fertility, he has reduced prowess and presence. Alternatively, the issue may not be whether or not he has the ability to make or provide sperm, but is as interested in fertility as his partner.
“Since many men don’t go see a doctor until something is wrong, infertility can be the first sign of an Achilles’ heel for men. They are now vulnerable. Women will conventionally see a gynecologist for routine care who also have training in fertility, so the discussion process can evolve into pregnancy when the time is right,” Campbell added.
“Up to 15 percent of couples will struggle with infertility. In 20 percent of cases, it’s a couples factor and, in 30 percent of cases, it may be attributable to the male factor alone. Fertility is a couples issue, and we need to see it that way. Whether it’s a male factor or female factor, at the end of the day, the goal is to achieve a pregnancy for the couple.
“The woman in this story suggests that she is torn between her relationship and her fertility. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, and she needs to make sure that her partner understands this. Then she needs to decide which of her two paths she can’t live without,” Campbell said.
On Mumsnet, 73 percent of the 1,163 respondents voted that the woman was not being unreasonable.
NamelessTemptress01 commented: “I think I would have to leave him due to knowing I would feel massive resentment towards him for not trying everything possible – not that he should have to but it’s an impossible situation.”
Another user wrote: “To me, staying in a good relationship would be the priority, alongside respecting a partner’s choices about their own health. But then I have never understood the burning wish some people have to have children.”
Newsweek could not verify the details of the case.
Have you noticed any red flags that made you end a relationship? Let us know via email@example.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.