TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- When couples have
difficulty getting pregnant, the amount of information they share
with family and friends may depend on who feels more stigmatized by
the problem, a new study finds.
Researchers interviewed 50 infertile couples and assessed their
support networks. They found that when the woman was concerned
about people's reactions, the couple were more open with family and
friends. But if the man felt he would be blamed, the couple were
less open with others.
These differences may have to do with protecting the husband's
public image and responding to societal pressure to pursue
motherhood, according to study author Keli Ryan Steuber, an
assistant professor of communication studies at the University of
"It aligns with the idea that couples do more work to maintain the husband's public persona," Steuber said in a university news release.
"For women, it may be a response to our pronatalist culture. There's an expectation that women want children, and sometimes those who are voluntarily childless are labeled as selfish or too career-driven. We wonder if that stigma overrides the stigma of infertility, to the point that women and their husbands feel compelled to clarify: 'We're not choosing to not have children. We can't have children.'"
The findings were published recently in the
Journal of Applied Communication Research and the
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
About 4.3 million (15 percent) of the 28 million married couples
in the United States have difficulty conceiving. Infertility can be
a difficult topic for couples to discuss with others.
The best way to maintain harmony, Steuber said, is for couples
to develop privacy rules and to discuss the reasons behind them.
For instance, talk about whether your wish to withhold information
is because of trust issues with specific people or perhaps because
of general insecurities.
"I've had women say things like, 'My whole life, if I worked hard enough at something, I've eventually gotten it. This is the first time where, no matter how hard we work at this, we don't know what the result is going to be,'" Steuber said.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has more about