Infertility Angst

A character is unable to have children, rendered infertile. Most common as a source of drama for female characters who are unable to become pregnant, although it can also happen to male characters.

Keep in mind it doesn't count if there's no drama—the infertile character has to specifically mention being sterile or wishing they could have children.

See also Immortal Procreation Clause (when a long lived or immortal race can't reproduce or reproduces very rarely), Sterility Plague (if it happens to everyone), and Law of Inverse Fertility (the more you want to have kids the less you are likely to). If they're not as infertile as they thought, it's But I Can't Be Pregnant!, and Mystical Pregnancy if it happens through supernatural means.

This is Crippling Castration if it happens via accidental or intentional removal of the genitals. If it's related to age, or social conventions, it may overlap with My Biological Clock Is Ticking.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Izumi Curtis attempted to use human transmutation to resurrect her stillborn son. Some of her internal organs were removed as a result, and she was rendered infertile. She seems to be living a content life with her husband, but it's implied to still be a sore spot for her, and when Ed reveals that the abomination that appeared during the transmutation wasn't her son, she thanks him before hanging up the phone, crying in relief that she didn't kill her son a second time.
  • Quint Nakajima from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS was mentioned to be infertile (it's implied to be due to injuries she sustained on the job as an Enforcer), so she and her husband went the adoption route instead. Though by a twist of fate, her daughters are biologically her children due to being cloned from her DNA.
  • Misako from Kodomo no Omocha. After she realized she couldn't conceive, she decided to "live life to the maximum" by becoming a full-on Cloudcuckoolander and doing whatever comes to mind. She also adopts a baby she finds in a park.

    Comic Books 
  • In Green Arrow, Black Canary eventually found out that she would be unable to have any children following injuries sustained during The Longbow Hunters story arc. It was implied that she might have regained it after a dip in the Lazarus Pit, but this was never explicitly confirmed and that story arc seems to have been dropped completely after the reboot.

    Films - Animated 
  • In Up, the montage at the beginning implies as strongly as they could in a kids' movie that Ellie learned she was infertile after a miscarriage. She's shown grieving the loss of her child in the doctor's office as he explains to her and Carl just what happened, and then again sitting alone in her yard.

    Films - Live Action 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: When Bruce and Natasha are discussing the possibility of starting a romantic relationship, Bruce says it wouldn't work out for several reasons, including that he's physically incapable of having children. Natasha says that she's already given up on having children, because she was sterilized as part of her training to become an assassin, to avoid the risk of her getting attached to a child. (She also counters his argument that he's a dangerous rage monster by reminding him of her blood-soaked past as an assassin and telling him he's not "the only monster on the team".)
  • In Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, this is a subplot in the first story. Madeline can't conceive, and also can't go five minutes without bringing it up. Her Jerk Ass of a husband, Jonathan, also blames her for it. Eventually, Jonathan messes around with Merlin's spell book, and accidentally age-regresses himself to a baby. In a happy ending straight out of Freud's fever dreams, Madeline takes her baby husband and decides to raise him as her son.
  • In Dogma, Bethany explains that she had cancer prior to the events of the film, which rendered her infertile, and her husband left her because she couldn't give him children. The forced calm with which she describes the situation suggests that she's trying to make herself numb to it.

  • In The Cityborn, Yvelle's whole motivation to join the Free is because the City Provosts ordered her sterilized while she was pregnant (which, needless to say, caused a miscarriage). And then her first mission is to kidnap a child from a high-Tier hospital... and kill any other child in the ward that tested positive for the same genetic traits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys is told she'll never again be able to bear children after she sacrifices her unborn son to save her husband's life. She later claims her dragons are the only children she'll ever have. After they meet, Jon asks her the obvious question if she had considered that the person who told her this (who murdered Dany's first husband) might not have been exactly truthful.
  • In Doctor Who, Amy reveals that whatever procedure she went through during her time held captive on Demons Run rendered her sterile. Her first child, Melody Pond, is also her last child. In "Asylum of the Daleks", her unhappiness over this is causing a rift in her marriage.
  • Robin from How I Met Your Mother is told she's infertile after a Pregnancy Scare. She claims to be fine with it as she doesn't want to have children, but it obviously causes her much angst.
  • In the Inspector Morse episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts", Friday Rees can't have children. She acts as if she's fine with it, but her reaction to the fact that her husband had a child with another woman proves she's really not.
  • The Sopranos: Adriana La Cerva, Christopher's longtime girlfriend, discovers that she can't have children. Christopher is not happy with this, since he is concerned with ensuring that his family's name will continue. Adriana angsts about this a lot, compounded by the fact that she's an informant for the FBI at that point.
  • Friends: Monica and Chandler, who have been trying for two years to have a baby, are informed that they can't have children because Chandler's sperm is too low motility and Monica has a kicking uterus. The news hits them really hard, especially Monica who has been dreaming her entire life about one day being pregnant. When nothing seems to work and they begin to worry that they might never become parents, they finally decide that their only option is to adopt.
  • On Adam Ruins Everything, Adam discusses how much of the data on when a woman's fertility declines, comes from medieval French peasants...but few people know that, leading to women fearing for their fertility as they approach their 30's. He also explains that the egg-freezing industry (which started as a way for women who would be undergoing chemo during their fertile years to save their eggs before treatment) now preys on those fertility fears of perfectly healthy women in that age group.
  • Happens on The X-Files to Scully a few times. She hadn't thought too much about children, until her eggs were stolen by "aliens". Sometimes, the worries overlap with My Biological Clock Is Ticking.
  • Sex and the City's Charlotte gets this big time when she and husband Trey can't conceive following their reconciliation. She promptly goes completely overboard in her efforts to procure a child, exploring fertility treatments, surrogacy, and adoption, ultimately exhausting Trey and resulting in the marriage ending.
  • After the stillbirth of her son, One Life to Live's Cassie immediately tried to adopt an abandoned baby she found a few weeks later, having a nervous breakdown when the birth mother changed her mind. Following her recovery, she then lept into trying to conceive again, even taking a dangerous medication that nearly killed her.
  • All My Children's Edmund and Maria struggled to conceive for a year, eventually deciding to adopt when all efforts failed.
  • Crops up on Gavin and Stacey, when Gavin and Stacey decide to have a baby. They are both distressed by their difficulty conceiving.

  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, Sarai/Sarah is infertile until God blesses her with a child at the age of 90. She had laughed bitterly when she was told she'd have a son in her old age, but was overjoyed when it finally did happen. Prior to that, as per the Code of Hammurabi, she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to sleep with her husband and bear a child on her behalf. As per the Law of Inverse Fertility, Hagar got pregnant by sleeping with Abraham once, which had caused Sarah to become jealous and resentful, and start treating her so badly that the very pregnant Hagar attempted to run away, until an angel told her to go back.
    • In the same book, Rachel fails to become pregnant, while her sister Leah successfully bears their shared husband Jacob one son after another. Rachel responds by yelling at Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die!" Jacob becomes angry, and responds that it's not something he can control, because he is not God.
    • In the Books of Samuel, Hannah is infertile, and her sister-wife Penninah has many children and taunts her about her infertility all the time. Their husband, Elkanah feels so bad for Hannah (and does genuinely care about her) that when they go into town for a religious celebration involving a ritual sacrifice, Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of the meat. Hannah went into the Temple, and started tearfully praying for a child, even promising to dedicate that child in service to God. The High Priest, Eli, assumes she's drunk, but she corrects him, and he apologizes, and tells her, "May God give you what you ask for." She eventually does conceive, and as promised, she dedicates Samuel to work in the Temple...and goes on to have several more children.
    • In general, back in Bible Times, infertility was thought to be a Curse or a divine punishment for some type of sin or misconduct, and a lot rode on one's fertility. Many of the surrounding Pagan nations had multiple fertility gods and goddesses, and so many times, the Israelites strayed into worshiping those fertility gods and goddesses, because of their fertility-related worries and fears, even though they weren't supposed to.

  • In Into the Woods, as punishment for looting her garden, the witch places a curse on the baker's father that renders both him and his son (whom his wife was pregnant with at the time) permanently infertile. The son's desire to break the curse drives the plot of the first act.

    Video Games 
  • In The Witcher, the titular witchers are rendered infertile from the young age as a result of all the mutagenic substances they ingest over the course of their training. Geralt, the main protagonist, laments about this fact and keeps looking for a possible way to undo this wherever he travels.

    Visual Novels 

  • In Drowtales, Quain'tana Val'Sarghress sustained a serious injury years before the story began that left her barren, which was a huge problem when her chosen heir ended up becoming possessed by a demon and no longer able to inherit the clan. She eventually resorted to stealing her other daughter's child, Ariel, to have a blood related heir in case she fell in battle.

    Western Animation 
  • This is a major concern for Princess Carolyn from Bojack Horseman. She's a middle-aged career woman who's never been married nor had any children, much to her dismay as she's always dreamed of family life. While Carolyn isn't exactly sterile yet, she's in her early 40s and is not too far away from losing her last chance at biological offspring. She does manage to get herself impregnated by a boyfriend, but it ends in miscarriage, and it turns out that she's already miscarried several times before.