Fertility is a male issue
When there start to be difficulties in achieving a pregnancy, men often feel the same anxiety, or even more so, than their own partners
Even today, when people think about fertility, they tend to focus on women, and fertility problems are still sometimes seen as a women’s issue. In fact, the causes of infertility are just as likely to be male in origin as female. What’s more, fertility problems can cause just as much distress to men as they do to women, although sometimes men find it harder to be open about this.
The stigma of infertility
Fertility problems can be difficult to discuss for anyone, but a new study in the United Kingdom has revealed just how much stigma is still attached to male fertility. More than 2000 men were questioned for the survey, which found that more than half of them did not feel that they could discuss concerns about fertility with their partners, let alone with their friends and family. Nearly as many said that they wouldn’t be open to discussing fertility issues with their doctor either. For a substantial number of men, fertility is a taboo subject which they find hard to address with anyone.
Lifestyle and fertility
The survey also investigated men’s lifestyle choices, and asked the respondents how much they knew about the impact that these can have on fertility. The majority were unaware that age could have a negative impact on their fertility, and nearly half of the respondents didn’t know that being overweight or obese might affect their chances of having a family. Just 55% were aware that having a sexually-transmitted infection could affect their fertility in the future, which was surprising as this is usually spelled out when the risks of sexually-transmitted infections such as chlamydia are discussed.
The survey also looked at whether men were willing to make lifestyle changes to protect their fertility. Although the majority (64%) knew that smoking and drinking alcohol might make a difference, the survey found that despite knowing about the impact it might have, many of this group were still regularly smoking or drinking excessive quantities of alcohol.
Male reactions to fertility problems
The survey looked at the way that having fertility problems can affect men’s lives and their emotions. Around a third of those who responded to the survey had experienced some kind of fertility problem themselves. The majority of them revealed that this had a negative impact on their relationship with their partner, and a third said it had also had a negative impact on their work life. What was perhaps more striking was that 40% of this group said that they felt their difficulties conceiving had an adverse effect on their mental health.
These results show that contrary to what is sometimes believed, fertility problems can have a devastating impact on men’s lives. Sometimes men feel that they need to be strong for their partners when they face difficulties, but it is clear from the survey that many are bottling up their feelings. Men experience sadness and pain too when they are trying unsuccessfully to be parents, and many of those who responded to the survey felt that they do not get as much support and information as they would like about fertility issues.
When a couple have difficulty conceiving, it apparent that all too often men don’t feel comfortable about seeking help, particularly when it comes to dealing with the emotional impact that this can have. Getting the message across that fertility isn’t just a women’s problem may help to raise awareness and ensure that men who face fertility problems are better informed and supported in the future.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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