‘Women split up with me as soon as I tell them about my fer­til­ity is­sues’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Back Page - Tr­ish Mur­phy

QAs a child I suf­fered a se­vere in­jury that has caused me to have a low sperm count. I re­ceived ex­pert ad­vice about two years ago which sug­gested that it was highly un­likely that I would ever fa­ther a child through nat­u­ral con­cep­tion. I was ad­vised that it would not be im­pos­si­ble for me to be­come a fa­ther through meth­ods like as­sisted re­pro­duc­tion and there are even choices such as sperm do­na­tion avail­able. I would like to have a fam­ily, but am ac­cept­ing of the fact this may be dif­fi­cult and per­haps im­pos­si­ble.

I was in a re­la­tion­ship for a decade from my late teens up un­til my late 20s; this re­la­tion­ship broke up for en­tirely dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Any­way, at that time hav­ing a fam­ily was not re­ally an is­sue that ei­ther of us ever re­ally talked about. I am now in my early 30s and have been on the dat­ing scene over the past few years and have had a num­ber of short-term re­la­tion­ships. Once I have dated some­one for four to five weeks and be­gin to be­lieve that a longer term re­la­tion­ship is pos­si­ble I will usu­ally tell them about my fer­til­ity is­sues.

In most sit­u­a­tions the re­la­tion­ship does not progress to the next date or it ends very shortly af­ter­wards.

My male friends think that I should just en­joy my­self and al­low feel­ings to de­velop in a re­la­tion­ship be­fore I in­form them that hav­ing chil­dren may be an is­sue. I feel that this would be disin­gen­u­ous and could cause some­one to un­wit­tingly have to make dif­fi­cult choices about their fu­ture.

I know that I may well meet some­one who will not be fazed by this prob­lem and, in fact, I may meet some­one who does not wish to have chil­dren. I am not des­per­ate to have a re­la­tion­ship, but I do find this sit­u­a­tion frus­trat­ing.

AYou seem to have a very good han­dle on this is­sue and per­haps this is be­cause you have had a long time to come to terms with it. How­ever, any po­ten­tial part­ner you have will have only a few meet­ings with you be­fore this in­for­ma­tion cre­ates a ma­jor de­ci­sion in the re­la­tion­ship. Such a de­ci­sion hap­pens be­fore there is any sub­stance to mit­i­gate the fu­ture dif­fi­culty and per­haps most peo­ple de­cide at this stage that avoid­ing such pos­si­ble dif­fi­culty is the best op­tion. There is a well-pub­lished fig­ure that says that one of six cou­ples in Ire­land will ex­pe­ri­ence fer­til­ity dif­fi­cul­ties and so this is a very com­mon prob­lem that cou­ples face and sur­vive daily. Most cou­ples do not pre­pare for this and per­haps it is the si­lence around in­fer­til­ity that is the real dif­fi­culty – do we think that speak­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity will some­how jinx us?

If the con­ver­sa­tion about the pos­si­bil­ity of fu­ture in­fer­til­ity prob­lems is to be had at all, it is likely that it will hap­pen when a cou­ple is con­sid­er­ing com­mit­ting to each other at a se­ri­ous level. All this is a pre­cur­sor to the pos­si­bil­ity that you are in­tro­duc­ing the topic in a fledg­ling re­la­tion­ship that has no real abil­ity to take it on board.

How­ever, there is also the very real pos­si­bil­ity that if you wait un­til an ap­pro­pri­ate time to tell your fu­ture part­ner of your fer­til­ity is­sues that you could be ac­cused of dis­sem­bling or ly­ing and there would be some jus­tice to this ac­cu­sa­tion.

So where does this leave you? Good judg­ment is called for in each sit­u­a­tion and you might con­sider that there is no one “right” time or way to do this but that each re­la­tion­ship sit­u­a­tion calls for a judg­ment all of its own.

Big con­sid­er­a­tion

For ex­am­ple, to date you have de­cided that date four or five is the cor­rect time to speak of your in­fer­til­ity. But might it be a bet­ter op­tion for you to judge if the re­la­tion­ship has enough po­ten­tial to war­rant this chal­lenge at this stage or judge if the per­son you are dat­ing has the ca­pac­ity to ab­sorb this in­for­ma­tion in their po­ten­tial fu­ture? This judg­ment must be based on what you see in front of you in the mo­ment and not on some pre­vi­ously de­cided pat­tern. In­tel­li­gence and ca­pac­ity to reach over into the other per­son’s po­si­tion will let you know if they can cope with this news.

There is the added fact that in their 30s (I as­sume you are dat­ing peo­ple roughly the same age as your­self) most women are con­sid­er­ing hav­ing a fam­ily and so this is a big con­sid­er­a­tion for them at this stage. But you are not shying away from hav­ing a fam­ily but are of­fer­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of con­ceiv­ing and fa­ther­ing a child and this is to be lauded and should have the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated.

When you are dat­ing some­one, you are look­ing for some­one who can choose you over all else in their lives, and this takes some time to dis­cover. Trust your judg­ment and speak when you think it might be worth it for both of you.


One in six cou­ples in Ire­land will ex­pe­ri­ence fer­til­ity dif­fi­cul­ties: most peo­ple do not pre­pare for this and the si­lence around in­fer­til­ity is a dif­fi­culty in it­self.

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