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Related to the Law of Inverse Fertility, this trope deals specifically in couples desperately wanting or needing a child and the angst it causes when they can't conceive. Or when they do, the woman will always miscarry.

If it's the woman who can't get pregnant or keep that way, she berates herself for being a failure and a disgrace to her gender. Sometimes she simply wants a baby that badly, or others pity her poor childless existence, or she feels obligated to bear her man a child due to societal norms. She may even feel it necessary to leave her male partner out of obligation, so he can find a more fertile specimen of femalehood to bear his children.

If it's the man who can't sire, the narrative will often give some explanation like having a childhood disease at an advanced age. His angst will be a bit more subdued, simply trying to live with the handicap and regret. Oftentimes he may feel like "half a man" for not being able to knock up his wife, or other people may outright say he is.

The problem will usually be solved by calling in a surrogate or a donor, or simply adoption.

Sometimes the angst can end up being useless when the couple does manage to have a baby after all.

Examples of Infertility Angst in media:

Fan Works

  • Several Fire Emblem fics deal in this trope. This is common for Lyndis and Florina from Blazing Blade, and sometimes Robin from Awakening. One fic even has Lyndis hating herself so much for being barren that she tells her husband Kent it's okay if he hits her, makes her sleep outside, or takes another wife.
  • One Voltron: Legendary Defender fic has Chip the android from the final episode built as a substitute child for Pidge and Hunk when the former is unable to become pregnant. The quite chickified Pidge becomes obsessed with having the closest thing to a "real" child she can, though, being compared to Honerva as she infuses the android with quintessence.
  • Some Avatar: The Last Airbender fics have Mai or Katara being barren:
    • This fic has Katara unable to carry a child to term, miscarrying every time she and Aang conceive. A group of elders keeps pushing Aang to find a new wife because of this, but he refuses. Eventually they manage to have Tenzin.
    • Some Zutara fics have Zuko wanting to go for Katara because Mai can't give him an heir.
    • A few Legend of Korra headcanons suggest that the real reason Lin Beifong didn't want children was because she couldn't have them. Even though nothing in the series suggests it.
  • One Ace Attorney fic has Maya wailing that she "can't even get a bun in the oven" because all of her and Phoenix's friends have two children each and she doesn't even have one. Of course, the end of the fic reveals she IS pregnant.
  • This Roseanne fic has Becky and Mark struggling to conceive. The second chapter has Bev lay the blame at Mark's feet, suggesting Mark isn't "man" enough to give Becky a baby and that Becky should find someone else...all so Bev can have another grandchild. The family naturally blasts her for this.
  • In the lost Magic School Bus fic Like A Mother's Mourning Dress, Arnold and Phoebe are trying to have a baby, but she keeps miscarrying. When Phoebe is diagnosed with cancer, Dorothy Ann offers to be the "oven" for one of Phoebe's eggs and Arnold's sperm. It works out well, but Phoebe is crushed over not being well enough to carry the baby herself.
  • The Rugrats fanfic Prerugrats, a deconstruction of the Creepypasta "The Rugrats Theory", has Didi suffering a particularly painful case of this. After the tragic stillbirth of her and Stu's first child Spencer, Didi is unable to become pregnant and over the years, she watches her friends and all the other women on her block have their own children and feels left out. It takes her and Stu three years after Spencer's death to finally have Tommy.



  • Alex Montgomery in Catherine Anderson's book Annie's Song is sterile, due to having the mumps as an adult. He does angst a bit over this; before he met Annie, he never bothered to date or marry due to thinking it'd be pointless. Ultimately subverted at the end, though, he does manage to give Annie a baby.
  • Saywer in The Girl Who Chased the Moon is sterile due to having chicken pox as a teenager, which is implied to be among the reasons he and his ex-wife split up. She's shown pregnant with her new lover's baby, and Sawyer is happy for her. Later, it turns out that he fathered a child with the heroine Julia in their teen years, and the girl finally meets her birth parents in the last chapter.
  • Rosalie and Esme in Twilight desperately want to be mothers, but vampires can't bear children. This causes bitterness in Rosalie when the still-human Bella gets knocked up by Edward without even trying.
  • Gwenhwyfar in The Mists of Avalon keeps miscarrying her attempts at carrying Arthur's child. In a weird twist, it's implied it's Arthur's fault she can't keep pregnant.
  • Stacey's mother in The Baby Sitters Club was unable to get pregnant again after having Stacey, which also led to her and her husband becoming crazy overprotective of Stacey when she became diabetic.
  • Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult has protagonist Zoe Baxter struggle to get pregnant due to polycystic ovary syndrome and a genetic disease on her husband's side. She does get pregnant only to lose the baby in her third trimester. The rest of the book focuses on her falling in love with a woman and fighting her now-ex husband Max for the right to raise her embryos alongside that woman.
  • Isabel in The Light Between Oceans has lost many children to stillbirth and miscarriage. She and her husband end up adopting an abandoned baby.

Live-Action TV

  • On Friends, Monica and Chandler's struggle to make a baby is a mini-arc, in which they discover both of them are more or less sterile. They discuss a donor, but Monica decides that if she can't get pregnant by Chandler she doesn't want to be pregnant, and instead arrange to adopt. Chandler even lampshades it as he speaks to the lady who's carrying the baby they're planning to adopt, referring to Monica "a mother without a child"
  • Jan and Philip in The Brady Bunch spinoff The Bradys struggle with being unable to conceive due to Jan being barren, and eventually adopt a Korean girl.
  • Robin on How I Met Your Mother doesn't like children and says many times that she doesn't want them. When she finds out she'll never have them, though, she's devastated that the choice has been taken away from her...even as she tries to rationalize that her infertility is a good thing.
  • Discussed in an episode of Home Improvement. While neither Tim nor Jill are infertile, Jill wants Tim to have a vasectomy, which would render him sterile. He tells Wilson that while he doesn't necessarily want another kid, he likes knowing he can father one, and Wilson affirms that many cultures do place a man's worth in his ability to father children before reassuring Tim that here in America, a man is valued for more than that...particularly, for his commitment to his wife. This convinces Tim to relent and have the vasectomy.
  • In the Roseanne revival, Becky is offered a huge sum of money to be a surrogate mother for a rich woman, only to find out her eggs are too old and she has no chance of getting pregnant. She's devastated. The Conners swings it around to Law of Inverse Fertility when she does become pregnant accidentally from a one-night stand.
    • In the series proper, Dan and Roseanne are trying for another baby and keep failing, and Roseanne fears she's just too old and barren to get pregnant again. Like Becky, she experiences Law of Inverse Fertility when she and Dan make a baby some time later without even trying.
  • In Fuller House, Stephanie is infertile and this fact causes her a great deal of pain and insecurity, especially when she gets involved with her best friend Kimmy's brother Jimmy and he tells her he wants to have kids with her. Luckily, he stays with her even in light of this revelation, and Kimmy acts as a surrogate for them by carrying one of Stephanie's usable eggs.


  • The Spanish play Yerma by Federico García Lorca is about a woman in rural Spain who desperately wants to have a child with her husband Juan, even when their marriage is loveless (and apparently arranged) and they simply cannot conceive. How the local Gossipy Hens talk shit about Yerma for it and other women close to her are able to have kiddos do NOT help the lady's terrible mental state. When Yerma realizes that Juan never really intended to give her the child she wants and needs so much, she snaps and strangles him to death. The names of the play and the protagonist lampshade the trope, since "yerma" is an old-fashioned Spanish word for "barren".

Video Games

Western Animation

  • In a late-season episode of The Simpsons, Marge wants another baby and Homer decides to humor her in trying for one. They can't conceive, with a visit to the doctor revealing that Homer's totally sterile.
    • This has been played with many times in the series due to Homer working at a nuclear plant. He even lampshades it once in the episode where Apu and Manjula have octuplets, asking Marge to reassure him that he's sterile.
    • One episode has several couples suffering from fertility angst, right around the time Bart's voodoo spell results in his art teacher getting knocked up. When word gets out, these couples pay Bart $5 each to work his "magic". Apparently it worked for one couple...and then later for Fat Tony's prized racehorse.
  • A two-episode arc of King of the Hill dealt with this. The first one had Hank obsessing over their dog Ladybird's fertility, only to find out she has a narrow uterus-similar to Hank's narrow urethra. It turns out that they got Ladybird in response to learning Hank would never be able to get Peggy pregnant, but playing with their new puppy relaxed Hank enough for Peggy to get pregnant with Bobby. And it turns out he and Peggy both want another baby, so Hank thinks having another puppy around will help him relax again. The next episode has Peggy failing 12 pregnancy tests due to Hank's low sperm count...just around the time Cotton shows up with a very pregnant Didi. While Hank and Peggy stop trying for a baby after finding out Bobby wouldn't be happy with a sibling, Peggy is still heavily disappointed.
  • Princess Carolyn in BoJack Horseman wants a family, but has been dogged with fertility problems and suffered five miscarriages throughout her many attempts to get pregnant. She ends up adopting a baby porcupine whom she dubs "Untitled Princess Carolyn Project".

Real Life

  • Many cultures judge a person's worth on their ability to bear or sire children. Africa is especially bad about this when it comes to women; barren women are barred from attending social events, ostracized, and overall devalued based on their inability to get pregnant. In some cases, even if it is the man's fault the couple can't conceive, the woman is blamed anyway. Naturally, this is extremely psychologically damaging.
    • In some cultures, such as Egypt and Mexico, it's all on the man's shoulders. Virile men are heavily praised and those who can't sire a child are pitied, leading to depression and suicidal thoughts.
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