10 Fights Every Couple Has When Trying to Conceive

If trying to conceive feels trying on your relationship, you're not alone. Here, experts share the arguments they most often see among TTC couples.

Arguments TTC
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Getting pregnant isn't always easy. In fact, couples at the peak of their fertility only have about a 20% chance of conceiving each month. This definitely adds pressure to the process and can turn a seemingly fun and hopeful experience into one fraught with stress and feelings of guilt or blame.

"Couples who've been trying for a long time to conceive may grow impatient and disillusioned," explains Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California. "Sadness and helplessness may play out in the form of arguments, irritability, dissatisfaction, or resentment."

Here are some common fights couples have when trying to get pregnant and how to solve them.

1. The Decision To Have a Baby

The very first step in a couple's parenting journey is deciding to start a family. "Many partners are not on the same page about the timing of their decision," says Anate Brauer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Greenwich Fertility and IVF Centers and assistant professor of OB/GYN at NYU School of Medicine. "While woman are burdened by the loud ticks of their biological clock, men often want to spend a little more time enjoying life as a couple."

She explains that this disconnect can often be a game-changer in many relationships. That's why it's best to have these big-ticket conversations well before you're ready to start trying, ideally even before you become serious as a couple. "If goals are aligned, success is more likely, and when it isn't, you are able to power through struggles together," Dr. Brauer adds.

2. When To Start Trying To Conceive

Even if both partners are open to having a family one day, your timelines might not match up. For example, one partner might be in an ideal work scenario for starting a family, while the other is just starting a new job that requires all of their time, energy, and resources.

The person in the relationship who plans to carry the baby

Hormones adding a sense of urgency to getting pregnant sooner rather than later can also cause friction in a relationship. That's because female fertility begins to decline in the early 30s, speeding up dramatically after 35. The pressure from a ticking biological clock can certainly lead to some arguments.

"It is important to get good communication on board and discuss the expectations of each party involved, what their role in the process might be and what time constraints you're facing," says Johanna Kaplan, child clinical psychologist and director of the Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill.

3. The Steps Involved in Conceiving

Most couples don't realize how small the window of conception is until they're actively trying to conceive. But the reality is that conception is only possible from about five days before ovulation—which occurs around two weeks after your last period, though this can vary from person to person—to the day of ovulation. That gives you maybe six days where conception is possible—and you still have just a 10-20% chance during this window.

"Our biological calendars are not necessarily in sync with that business trip you or your spouse had planned or that guys night he was planning on," says Dr. Brauer. This often means putting other personal and professional commitments on hold to maximize your chances of conceiving.

If one partner can't perform during ovulation, it can leave the other partner feeling frustrated and like there was a missed opportunity. A straightforward way to avoid commitment overlaps is to block out time on your calendar for when you will ovulate. You can use ovulation trackers and calendars to know when your best window for conception might be.

4. The Lack of Intimacy in Their Relationship

When sex becomes only a necessary step to baby-making—it's not the sexiest thing. If this happens, Dr. Kaplan explains that bringing intimacy back into the relationship is critical. Try not to make conception all that you are as a couple.

"Continue to do all the things you love to do and don't revolve your lives around the ovulation," suggests Elena Mikalsen, Ph.D., section head and assistant professor of Psychology at Baylor College of Medicine in San Antonio, Texas. "Get together with friends, travel, go out to eat, have fun!"

5. The Decision To See a Specialist or Enter Treatment

"Partners often feel a varied sense of pressure to conceive and, therefore, have opposing views of when they should seek outside medical assistance," explains Dr. Brauer. "Avoidance of seeking an opinion sometimes comes from guilt of feeling like 'I should be able to do this naturally.'"

What's important in these scenarios is to understand that seeking help from a specialist does not necessarily mean you will need help throughout conception.

"Many couples present for a basic fertility workup, including checking sperm, uterus, fallopian tubes, and egg reserve go on to easily conceive on their own," she says. "If an issue is identified, such as low sperm count or blocked tubes, the couple has identified it in a timely manner and will not be wasting months more of frustration in fighting a futile battle to conceive."

The bottom line is that even when a couple has been trying to conceive, merely having the reassurance that everything is normal and in working order can relieve their anxiety over trying to get pregnant.

6. Laying Blame on One Partner

After several months of trying to conceive with no success, feelings of failure and inadequacy can follow. But Dr. Brauer reminds couples that it is impossible to make a baby without both egg and sperm. Therefore, it is important to understand that no matter the issue, whether male or female, both partners are inherently involved in the process.

"Avoiding guilt and blame and supporting one another through a potentially tough time will make success easier to achieve and even sweeter to enjoy," she says.

7. The Number of Children You Plan To Have

Depending on how difficult it was for you to get pregnant the first time, you might consider having fewer or more children than you had originally discussed with your partner. This can be a serious point of contention if you don't see eye to eye, says Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D., New York-based relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University.

If one partner feels strongly about having only one child, but the other wants to fulfill their lifelong dream of having three or more, serious tensions may arise. The best thing to do is communicate and see how you feel as time and life move forward.

8. Differing Parenting Styles

Battles over how to raise the children that you'll someday have due to polarizing views on parenting can cause a rift between couples who are in the business of baby-making (this may also follow you into parenthood as well).

"They may argue about discipline beliefs such authoritarian versus assertive parenting styles, nutrition, educational anticipations for the child, and even the idea of having two working parents or one," explains Dr. Mendez. "Couples may have differing ideas about who should be the stay at home parent if they agree to only one parent maintaining out of home employment."

In this scenario, it's best to keep talking. "Don't hide your feelings and just share with your friends," says Dr. Mikalsen. "Share with your partner directly and communicate how the process has been making you feel and how you wish things were better, different, improved."

9. Family Traditions, Cultural Differences

If traditional methods of conceiving aren't successful, couples may turn to alternative conception methods, such as in vitro fertilization, donor egg implantation, intrauterine insemination, or the use of fertility drugs. But this consideration of alternative conception methods may be at odds with their respective families' expectations and their cultural beliefs, explains Dr. Mendez. "This may trigger the couple to argue about how to best navigate the options afforded by present-day progressive medicine versus family held beliefs and expectations."

This is a time when it's best not to involve the role of the extended family, whose beliefs may sway one or both of the partners when it is really their choice as a couple. "Getting other family members involved can also lead to fights when trying to conceive," explains Dr. Kaplan. "Conception is a highly personal experience for a couple, so it is important to respect the boundaries of the other person in the relationship."

10. Alternative Methods of Building a Family

If a couple is not having success conceiving on their own or with the help of medical interventions, they may consider whether to continue trying to have a biological child or adopt.

"This decision may be an agreement and collaboration for the couple that propels them toward adoption, or it may result in fights over the notion of parenting a child that they did not give birth to," explains Dr. Mendez. "Issues of social consciousness for one partner may clash with the other partner's desires for a traditional process when it comes to growing a family."

The best way to handle this uncomfortable and sometimes scary situation is to research as much as possible to understand the options available to you. "Knowledge is power and most couples who find themselves in the situation of adoption are ones who have highly educated themselves to the process," says Dr. Kaplan.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are a couple who has been trying to conceive for a while or you're pondering if this is the next step in your relationship, it is important to keep lines of communication open about expectations, feelings, and fears. Remember to approach one another with love, respect, and kindness—especially when plans go sideways and conceiving takes longer or is more difficult than you both thought it would be.

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