In 2020 the UK fertility rate dropped to its lowest level since record began over 80 years ago, according to ONS data; currently sitting at 1.6 children per woman, which signifies a drop of over 4% compared to 2019.
However, the UK is by no means alone in having a falling fertility rate, with recent research indicating that as many as 23 countries are at risk of seeing their population halved by 2100. Experts suggest that the global decline in fertility is mostly due to a shift in societal expectations, as many women in developed countries are now choosing to have children later in their lives and as a result having fewer children overall.
For some couples though, that decision to have children later in their lives is not a choice at all but instead a consequence of their struggles with fertility issues. In fact, the NHS reports that as many as one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving.
For many couples having a child is an integral part of their vision for their lives together and it can be difficult for couples when this vision is challenged. A 2014 study for example found that couples who faced issues with fertility were three times more likely to divorce .
The strain fertility issues can place on a relationship should not be underestimated, especially when many of the stresses the couple are facing can be hidden even from each other.
Which is why Proxeed, a fertility supplement, have put together their take on a ‘modern kamasutra’ – detailing everything couples need in order to perfect the art of trying, from tips on wellness and how to maintain open and honest conversation to potentially fertility boosting positions for the bedroom.
How To Successfully Communicate Through Infertility
From disagreements on when to seek help to differences of opinion on how to move forward, there is a lot that needs to be discussed when a couple faces fertility issues. And for many couples it can be hard to navigate these topics without unintentionally hurting each other’s feelings.
As part of their guide Proxeed spoke to a relationship psychologist, Mairéad Molloy, about the most common disagreements couples have when struggling with infertility and how couples can overcome these.
For each of the disagreements Mairéad highlighted Proxeed then pulled together conversation prompts, to better help couples broach these difficult topics and start the process of communication.
Among the topics highlighted was fears your partner would leave you, the financial impact of infertility, whether you should tell other people about your struggles and even basic misunderstandings about how your partner may be feeling in general.
Speaking about the importance of open and honest communication between couples, Mairéad Molloy told Proxeed: ‘Talking to each other and sharing fears is a good start. Talking about infertility can become a problem if one partner’s primary coping mechanism is to avoid the topic altogether. It can also become a source of tension if one partner talks about infertility “all the time.” The key is finding balance. Be willing to talk, or be willing to talk about it less, depending on which side of the coin you fall.’
Caring For Yourself And Your Partner
Proxeed has also shared insights on ways to look after both your own and your partners wellbeing during what, for many couples, could well be the most difficult period of their relationship.
From the basics, such as ensuring you are looking after your body with a healthy diet and regular exercise to combat stress, to the importance of staying busy during the dreaded ‘two-week wait’.
Referring to the period of time between ovulation and when you can reliably take a pregnancy test, the two-week wait is naturally a period of high stress for couples who are actively trying to conceive. However, stress can often have an adverse effect on contraception which is why Proxeed suggests trying to keep yourself busy during that time by meeting up with loved ones or keeping up with hobbies.
One of the biggest ways however that you can look after yourself and your loved one during fertility issues is through reclaiming your sex life.
According to Mairéad couples should try and refocus sex away from conception, she argues it is important couples: “don’t neglect [their] sex life [and] reclaim it back from infertility and make it about intimacy and love again.”
One of the ways that couples can do this is through experimenting with different positions – a number of which could potentially even aid in conception, if only anecdotally.
Mairéad also explains: “Whilst there is no scientific evidence to suggest that different positions within the bedroom can increase or decrease your chances of conceiving, there is plenty of research that shows that stress levels can affect contraception. This is why, it is important to re-introduce an element of fun into your sex life and experimenting with different positions is one way you can achieve this.”
The advice hammers home the importance of reframing sex as an intimate and fun expression of your love for one another, and taking it away from being simply a means to conception. Mairéad clarifies that: “This is likely to reduce a lot of the stress and anticipatory anxiety that can surround sex when a couple is struggling to conceive. And while it may not be able to solve all of a couple’s fertility issues, a little fun and an orgasm or two never hurt anyone”.
Among the positions Proxeed suggests are:
- Butter Churner
- The free-as-air
- The Pinner
- Upstanding Citizen
- The Straddle
- Face to Face