Emotional responses to an male infertility diagnosis can vary.
You may initially feel shocked and overwhelmed by your diagnosis, which can cause you to see yourself as imperfect. Additionally, men often develop a sense of failure and feel they will miss out on an important life experience. Male infertility emotional effects are common, but professional and group support can help you navigate infertility treatment.
Often, men feel uncomfortable expressing depression and sadness, so their outward reactions may come out as verbal anger, a more socially acceptable mode of expression. As anger changes to other less comfortable emotions, such as grief, men may further retreat and repress any emotional responses.
When a man receives a diagnosis of male factor infertility, he often feels responsible for the infertility, especially if the condition relates to any earlier life event. For example, sports injuries, childhood illnesses and other contributing factors become the easy targets of disdain and frustration.
Feelings of inadequacy
When fertility issues arise with the male partner, many men struggle with feeling inadequate. Although these ideas have no basis in truth, men often equate their manliness with their ability to impregnate their wives. Just watch a proud father boast about his four strong sons, and you can see the correlation. Feelings of inadequacy are exacerbated when a man must masturbate into a cup and undergo an embarrassing examination to discover the root cause.
Loss of control
Certainly, fertility issues highlight how little control we have over our bodies. Men need to feel empowered in their lives. When a man suddenly discovers that he can’t control his ability to procreate, this revelation can be unsettling.
Tip: Accepting your reality can take time, so give yourself a chance to process your emotions.
Thoughts of failure: a need for boys
For centuries, men have wanted to produce male heirs because survival of the family line and the family name depended on a son. In many cultures today, these thoughts still prevail, adding to a man’s struggle. The notion of continuing a genetic line has strong emotional connections for many men, particularly those who are ‘only’ sons. Infertility can mean not only the inability to pass along the family name, but also the family genes.
Many men also wrestle with lost dreams. If a man questions whether or not he’ll ever have children, then he must face the fact that he might not have an heir to carry on the family name. Certainly, men, as well as their partners, should consider other options, including adoption, surrogacy and perhaps fertility treatments.
When a man suffers from male factor infertility, guilt is a common response. Men know that their wives want children and the guilt arises because they feel like a hindrance to that dream. Rationally, you may see that no one deserves blame, but that knowledge may not resolve the emotions tied to infertility. Reach out to your partner as much as possible, and remember that you are in this process together.
Sexual problems can surface with a diagnosis of male factor infertility. Erectile dysfunction and loss of desire can occur. When a man questions his masculinity, he may worry so much about his ability to function as a “man” that he finds himself unable to achieve or maintain an erection. These same concerns can rob him of a desire for sex. Treatment may remove the privacy of sex because diagnostic procedures can require “sex on demand,” which further aggravates these problems. The strain of worry and frustration can remove fun and intimacy from your sexual relationship.
Tip: Remember that making love matters to you and your partner, even if it won’t produce a pregnancy. Focus on romance and connecting as a couple.
Marriages can suffer, too. Men often feel as though they have let their wives down. The stress can spill over into the marital relationship. A husband may suggest his wife should find a “real” man who can give her a child naturally. Small disagreements can get blown out of proportion. Some men may seek sex outside a marriage as a way of affirming their masculinity and desirability to a woman, which will only create more problems for a couple.
Tip: Look at this situation as a challenge to your relationship and find ways to improve the partnership. Infertility can draw you and your partner closer together, particularly when each person sees it as a team effort to overcome the problem.
In addition to your marriage, other relationships can suffer the impact of male factor infertility. Men may avoid relatives and friends who have children of their own. Holiday celebrations with young children present become difficult reminders of infertility. Because men feel less comfortable discussing their emotions with friends and co-workers, these interactions don’t offer supportive outlets for frustrations, which may cause a man to further withdraw.
Contact us to schedule an appointment with our Austin fertility center to get the top-notch care you deserve from a compassionate team you can trust.
TFC Video: Male Infertility
How Do You Treat Male Infertility? Dr. Kaylen Silverberg discusses the best treatment options when facing male infertility.
Watch more TFC videos in our education center
TFC Ovation Research : Male Infertility
Chizhong Wang*, Ji-won Choi*, Leonardo F. Urbanoy†, Puneet Massonz‡, Matthew VerMilyea§, and Moshe Kam*; Tracking of Human Sperm in Time-Lapse Images. *Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, USA, †70 Beharrel St., Concord, MA, USA, ‡Penn Fertility Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, §Ovation Fertility, Austin, TX, USA.