How to Date when Having Fertility Treatment

Eloise Edington  |   4 Apr 2022

So you’re worried your biological clock is ticking?  You’re acutely aware that all your friends are settling down.  After each bad date, you ask yourself: “Was he really that bad?”

Just me?  Of course not – thanks, society.

As women approach and traverse their thirties, many report feeling pressured to find a partner, settle down, have a house, a mortgage, 2.5 children and a dog.  Perhaps the pressure is piled on by friends and family trying to show they care or maybe it’s deep-rooted in our psyches.  Fortunately, over the past twenty years, it has become increasingly acceptable for women to focus on their careers before having children (thank goodness), although there’s still a way to go.

But what if the decision to delay parenthood is also because you can’t find an eligible, single man with whom to procreate?  For some women, being an SMBC (solo mum by choice) using donor sperm is a much better option than settling down with a partner not fit for the title of “Dad”.

Following a series of failed relationships during my twenties and feeling concerned about my fertility (I have PCOS and other unexplained fertility issues), last year I embarked on fertility treatment as a single woman.  Like many women in the fortunate position of being able to freeze their eggs, this was an insurance policy.  Not wanting to resign myself to single status forever, I continued (and continue) to date in the hopes of finding someone fun and reliable to settle down with.

Now, as our Fertility Help Hub community knows, fertility treatment is not an easy ride.  So what’s it like to be dating whilst having IVF?

How do you balance:

  • Fertility clinic appointments and dating?
  • Hot sex with a new partner and bloating?
  • Boozy wine dates and IVF meds?

Read on and I’ll tell you.

Words by Holly Pigache.

Should you tell your new partner you’re having fertility treatment?

Whatever your reasons for going through fertility treatment as a solo parent, it’s your decision who you tell, if anyone.  Whilst informing close friends and family can help you build your support network, you certainly don’t need to tell everyone you’re dating.

The reality is that fertility treatment is still not fully understood by everyone (although at FHH, we’re working hard to change that) and there is still a stigma surrounding solo parenthood and donor conception.  My experience (and I know everyone’s is different) is that it’s best to leave the conversation about IVF with donor sperm until a little further down the line.  In an ideal world, your date wouldn’t look at you with wide eyes and be lost for words when you share news of your fertility treatment, but it does happen and these singletons often ghost you or make up an excuse about why there won’t be another date.  (Please say it’s not just me!)

Shrewd daters out there will know that if a date reacts like this, you’re unlikely to want another date with them.  However, try not to use your fertility treatment as a litmus test; it will wear you down and negative responses might mar your positive outlook (an outlook that is so crucial when having fertility treatment).  Wait until you’ve formed a connection with someone and you trust they won’t react poorly to your exciting news.

How do you juggle fertility clinic appointments and dating?

As much as daytime activity dates can be fun, here’s where dating culture lends itself to solo intended parents having fertility treatment.  Evening and weekend dates are easier to organise as fertility clinics are unlikely to offer appointments at these times.

You don’t need to tell the person you’re dating that you have a fertility appointment; you’re just busy.  But do remember it’s polite and helpful to offer alternative dates if the times your love interest suggests clash with blood tests, ultrasounds and egg collections.

When I was having fertility treatment last summer, I was dating someone who lived a few hours away from me.  For about a month, every date he suggested seemed to coincide with an appointment at the fertility clinic and other dates I offered weren’t suitable for him.  He was becoming increasingly frustrated that I’d reject his plans and I was finding it increasingly difficult not to be candid about the reasons.

Injecting Menopur in the pub toilet on a fantastic date.  My date was none-the-wiser, unlike the woman waiting outside the cubicle who I told that I was injecting IVF meds.  (She definitely heard the intake of breath and was waiting longer than the time it takes to have a wee…)

In the end, I told him (I also felt I trusted him with this news and reacted in such a cool, calm and collected manner, fully appreciating it was my decision).  Being honest with your date about why you can’t make plans will help them to understand and hopefully be more flexible.

IVF meds need to be administered at the same time each day so if you’re heading out with your date, remember to take your needle, ampule and antibacterial wipe with you so you can subtly inject in the toilet.  Set an alarm if you’re concerned you might miss your time slot.

How do you have hot sex with a new partner when you’re bloated from IVF medication?

Hot sex with a new partner?  Yes, please.  Sex when bloated?  God, no.  Sex when your thighs and stomach are swollen, sore and bruised?  No thanks.  How about sex when you’re feeling hormonal, depressed, tired and irritable?  I don’t think so.

Having sex when you’re not feeling like yourself is no mean feat, especially when you’re with a new partner and want it to be hot and fun during the honeymoon phase.  Telling the person you’re dating that you’re going through fertility treatment might help them to understand why you’re not feeling your usual sexy self.

No one should make you feel guilty for not having sex with them.  Going through fertility treatment is extremely taxing on your body and if all you can manage is getting up, showering, getting dressed, heading to work and then home again and managing to feed yourself (although this can feel like a tall order some days), that’s fine.  Lovely sex with a lovely new partner is a bonus during IVF and egg collection.  Focus on the fertility treatment and if your date is worth seeing again, they’ll understand.

Take extra caution with contraception when you’re having fertility treatment.  Not only do you want to avoid nasty STIs (and these can delay your treatment until they’ve been cleared up with antibiotics), but you’ll also want to avoid getting pregnant.  I remember feeling this was oddly ironic considering the circumstances (poor fertility plus treatment to conceive) yet you’re likely to be on fertility supplements, following a fertility-friendly diet and perhaps even having fertility acupuncture.  You’re also injecting your body with hormones and drawing on all your body’s fertile reserves.  You’ll be practically glowing with fertility hormones (or is that the sweat from the hot flushes?) so make sure your male partner puts on a condom.

No wine in sight – just impressive photography.

Can I go to bars and pubs when taking IVF meds?

Yes, you can go, but don’t drink alcohol.  Ask for the mocktails list or find a drink more appealing than water.  You are fun and fabulous and don’t need alcohol to be engaging.  If you’re worried about ordering a mocktail in front of your date, either order your drinks out of earshot (they don’t need to know there’s no alcohol in yours) or even joke about the night before being a bit heavy.  Or just say you don’t fancy drinking this evening.

If you’re really worried about being around others drinking when you can’t, plan dates away from pubs and bars.  Go to the cinema together, take a walk, see an exhibition at a gallery, go to your favourite cafe.  Remove the temptation and you won’t think about it.

There’s no one “right” way to date whilst having fertility treatment.  You might choose to continue dating or perhaps take a pause and focus on your assisted reproduction.  Whichever way you decide to navigate intended solo parenthood and the search for a romantic partner, be sure to listen to your body and be kind to yourself.

Having fertility treatment is utterly exhausting but so too is dating.  Maintaining your sanity and a positive outlook is crucial during fertility treatment so if your dating life is giving you grief, step away for a few months and invest that energy into optimising your diet and lifestyle for fertility.

Join our free, supportive fertility community to be a part of a collective that understands.  Gain insider tips and advice from experience by downloading the app here.

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