Health & Fitness

Beware, stress can hinder conception

pregnancy result
A lady with a negative pregnancy result. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH  

Qn: I have been married for 11 years now but haven’t had a child yet. I sneaked into a clinic for a fertility test and got a clean bill of health. How can I convince my husband to seek help to boost his fertility? I am afraid, I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”

The fact that you had to “sneak” into a fertility clinic to get help tells me that there is a potential problem in your marriage. In most cases of challenges of the type that you bring to us, couples work together on the joint problem to try and find a solution. Infertility by its very nature is a family problem and you do not need to sneak out to seek help. On such matters, your husband should be by your side at all times.

About 10 years ago, we saw a couple who brought a child for evaluation of what turned out to be Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As part of the examination and history taking, it was evident from an early stage that this, their first child, was different from their two younger children, not only in the fact that neither had any features of ADHD, but also because in their physical features they resembled their parents while the first child did not.

It was not difficult to establish that the first was an adopted child, who was loved dearly by the parents, and that was clearly not the problem. In the course of time, we established that they had adopted the child from an orphanage after they had failed to conceive, seven years into their marriage. The doctors had failed in all their efforts to help them conceive naturally and had after all else had failed, advised the route of adoption. They accepted the advice at once. The adoption process was quick and painless.

The child now before us had brought much joy and fulfillment to the couple and they settled down well in their new life as a family of three. Less than a year into this new and happy life, she became pregnant and a child was born, to the great delight and surprise of the couple. Another child followed a year later and the miracle was complete! The childless couple now had three children and were ready to live happily ever after.


The mystery of their infertility at the beginning of their marriage remained as the elephant in the room. Nobody dared talk about the “cure” of the infertility. The couple was happy to remain silent in their joy.

The next family secret was the identity of the child’s biological mother. This too, soon came to light. The mother had ADHD, had dropped out of school at the age of 16 years and had struggled to settle down in life. She worked as a cleaner at the adoption agency and she managed to get into their computer system to find out what had happened to her baby, now aged eight years. Happily, the matter was resolved without much drama. All the girl wanted was sponsorship to a computer college and she promised to keep off the happy family.

The second mystery proved more challenging to deal with. There was no ready explanation for the fact that the couple was infertile until they adopted a child. No such case was on record, as far as they could tell. In time, however, it became clear that much had gone wrong between the man and his wife long before they got married and because like you, they had a number of “secrets” between them, the cause of the infertility could not be dealt with.

In the early stages of their courtship, the man had come under much pressure from his mother to marry “this girl” who was from a good family. Her parents were both teachers and Christians and were doing well.

But he did not feel ready to marry. The pressure from his mother was intense. He was an only child, and the mother was a widow who now demanded grandchildren. He had gone into marriage to please his mother. He had to try his hardest to get as many children as he could, in the shortest time possible to please his mother. That was the beginning of their marital problems.

Engagement with his wife was neither pleasurable nor natural. In time, both resented time in bed together! Sex was a chore. The more they tried, the more painful it became for both. When they adopted a child, the grandmother was happy.

The pressure was off and the wife relaxed and became pregnant. Unknown to many infertile couples, psychological factors often lead to unexplained cases of infertility!