More than six million U.S. couples currently face infertility & 40 percent suffer from male factor infertility.
During this difficult time, women receive tools and resources to help them deal with their feelings. Unfortunately, society often leaves men alone to process the emotions of infertility and fertility treatments.
Thankfully, we no longer view infertility as strictly a woman’s problem; however, men still struggle to find proper support. Men suffering from infertility need to know their emotional health is a priority, too.
Men are often not as willing to talk about infertility, which may stem from the traditional view that children fall under a woman’s domain. Over the ages, society categorized conception and fertility as a ‘woman’s responsibility.’ Understanding the origins of this perception and shifting your paradigm will help give voice to your role in overcoming infertility.
Establishing a support system for men
When a woman experiences infertility, friends and family often identify with her pain and want to offer comfort. They understand what she is going through, or can empathize. At the same time, many people forget the other half of the couple — and that he is also in pain. If a fertility specialist identifies you as the cause of the infertility, your feelings of helplessness, stress and anger exponentially increase.
Just as there are significant overall differences in men and women, disparities exist between how they deal with infertility. Women have a need to share and express their feelings. They often reach out to family and friends. In general, men may internalize their feelings and try to remain strong. Because other men don’t often talk about sensitive issues like fertility and having children, you may feel like downplaying your struggle.
Tip: Men dealing with infertility experience many emotions, and they need validation of these feelings, and suggestions to help them cope. Talk to your spouse, and make connections with other men experiencing infertility. It helps to know you’re not alone.
Common misconceptions about male infertility
Many conditions contribute to the disparity in male and female responses to infertility. Unlike women, men don’t receive a monthly reminder of their fertility, or lack thereof. For this reason, men may seem less sensitive or distressed by childlessness. Monitoring ovulation is a woman’s task, and contraception often falls to the female partner.
Frequently, the initial fertility diagnosis occurs because the woman initiates the process with her gynecologist; her male partner doesn’t always participate in these office visits. Consequently, men come into the diagnostic picture much later. Tests tend to be more invasive and complicated for women than for men. In addition, men often think of their reproductive system as uncomplicated, with little that can disrupt its function, further distancing men from the initial shock of infertility.
The cultural significance
Several factors influence how men react to male infertility. American culture doesn’t inundate our psyches with images of fathering in the same way it focuses on women as mothers. A quick look through traditional men’s magazines reveals very few articles on how to be a great dad. Women’s publications devote cover articles and entire sections to parenting. Our culture shields men from developing expectations of their role as a parent. This may account for seeming indifference when a man faces childlessness.
Additionally, our culture expects men to show strength in the face of adversity and deems emotional responses to these events as weak. For men, strength seems to require detachment. How emotionally invested can we expect a man to be when pregnancy, a biological event for woman, remains solely a social experience for the male partner?
Of course, an infertility diagnosis can crush a man, especially if he longs to become a parent. The same issues that confront women weigh on men, and both sexes must now cope with taking parenthood for granted. Failing procreative body functions devastate men, especially since we associate these functions with sexuality. If they fail to conceive, men may consider it an assault on their masculinity.
Understanding your emotions
While you and your partner undergo infertility treatments, you may experience similar emotions and feelings:
- Anger with “fate” and invisible factors that thwart your plan to become a parent
- Frustration with the myriad of tests and procedures you will tackle together
- Numbness, and an inability to focus
- Sadness, isolation and depression as you face statistical realities
However, men and women may also experience quite different emotions while they battle infertility. That’s because societal roles often determine the role that men and women will play: men, the protector, and women, the procreator.
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.