Gender Differences in Coping with Infertility

How Men and Women may Cope Differently

By Aven Kane | 3 Minute Read

Infertility is not just a clinical diagnosis; it’s a personal upheaval that massively disrupts lives and dreams. For many, it feels like a boulder in our shoe, causing us to limp through life as we try to avoid the pain. This constant avoidance becomes increasingly challenging, necessitating coping mechanisms and, eventually, a need to take ownership of our experiences.

For many people the journey through infertility occurs within the context of a relationship, typically a long-term partnership like marriage. However, it invariably affects all interpersonal relationships, creating challenges that must be managed collectively.

Understanding How We Cope Differently

Research indicates that there can often be a significant divide in how men and women might cope with infertility. However, In all the different ways that people cope with infertility it is important to note that everyone seeking to cope with infertility is trying to reduce their stress and pain. While women and men may use different coping mechanisms, each are using their preferred coping mechanism in order to relieve the very real emotional pain they are in.

It can be tempting for all of us to look at our own coping strategy and prefer it to another. However, it is important to remember that “perfect coping” is something that we can aim for, and have grace on ourselves and others when it is not achieved.

The reality is that for many of us we are a mix of healthy coping and unhealthy coping. Some of the ways we cope with infertility may lead us to health in one area and un-health in another. Some coping mechanisms may fit well into the norms and others buck the norm.

To say it very plainly, we are all doing are best and when we cope we do some good, and some bad to ourselves.

The research points to these trends:

“…women seek social support from others going through infertility, as well as from medical professionals, which buffers the negative impact of infertility on psychological health. However, women also use more avoidance coping strategies, such as avoiding women with young children and other reminders of infertility, which is related to increased stress.” [1]
“Men, on the other hand, use more problem-solving strategies which fit commonly socialized norms of masculinity of working to solve problems in relationships. However, men are also more likely to cope using emotional distancing, which may create a barrier to relational health.” [1]

The Emotional and Psychological Impact

Infertility invariably triggers a complex mix of emotional responses in both men and women, including profound grief, anxiety, depression, and a sense of inadequacy or failure. These feelings in both men and women are magnified by societal pressures and expectations surrounding parenthood. Women may feel their identity and womanhood are questioned, exacerbating feelings of loss and exclusion, particularly in societies where motherhood is highly glorified.

Men often experience significant stress, questioning their masculinity and feeling they have failed in their protective role toward their partner. This can lead to profound feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, especially poignant when they cannot “solve” the problem of infertility.

Isolation becomes a prominent theme for all individuals dealing with infertility. As they manage their pain silently, they drift into loneliness, exacerbating stress and emotional suffering.

This silent suffering and lack of emotional expression from either partner can create a gulf between them. Additionally, navigating different coping mechanisms can cause an increased separation, making a difficult situation even more challenging

Therefore, both partners must strive for mutual understanding and support, acknowledging their differences and finding common ground in their shared experiences.

Solutions and Strategies for Enhanced Coping

Process Groups and Community Resources: Engaging with others who face similar challenges can provide a vital support network and a much needed perspective shift. Both men and women can benefit from sharing their experiences, gaining insights and emotional relief from knowing they are not alone in the way they are experiencing the struggle of infertility.

Knowing that you are not the only one experiencing a difference in coping with your partner goes a long way in terms of your mental well being.

Communication and Joint Counseling: It’s crucial for couples to communicate openly about their feelings, fears, expectations, and coping mechanisms. Professional counseling can provide a safe space for each partner to express their emotions and learn to support each other effectively in light of the different ways we process and cope with infertility.

Educational Programs: Partners should be educated about infertility’s emotional and psychological impacts. Understanding how gender can influence coping mechanisms can help couples anticipate and mitigate misunderstandings and conflicts.

Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques: Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and stress reduction techniques can be beneficial. These tools can help individuals manage the stress of infertility and improve their overall well-being.

Flexible Medical Treatment Plans: Fertility treatments are rigorous and can strain a couple’s emotional and financial resources. Flexible treatment plans that consider the couple’s emotional readiness and provide options for pauses between procedures can be less taxing.


Ultimately, navigating infertility requires a compassionate understanding of each partner’s coping style and a concerted effort to support one another. This collaborative approach not only enhances the couple’s ability to cope with infertility but also enriches their partnership and lays a solid foundation for future challenges and decisions.



[1]  Peterson, Brennan & Place, Jean Marie. (2019). The Experience of Infertility: An Unexpected Barrier in the Transition to Parenthood. 10.1007/978-3-030-24864-2_2.