Men Suffer, Too
Infertility has traditionally been perceived as a woman’s medical issue. Modern medicine has proved that isn’t accurate – as much as one third of all cases of infertility are due to male factor infertility alone and another 10 percent result in combination with female infertility. The emotional effects of infertility on men are often overlooked as well.
Male Factor Infertility
Male infertility has many causes, but all are due to conditions that keep sperm from uniting with an egg in a woman’s uterus. Often the only symptom is the female partner’s inability to get pregnant, but there may be other symptoms, such as swelling or pain in the testicles, erection or ejaculation problems, or signs of a hormonal imbalance like decreased facial or body hair. A semen analysis is performed to determine sperm count and how healthy the sperm are, measuring motility (ability to swim) and morphology (is the shape normal or abnormal). Male infertility may result from a low sperm count or abnormal sperm which don’t swim well or aren’t shaped normally, so they can’t penetrate and fertilize an egg. Some conditions causing male infertility are congenital, and others happen due to diseases like diabetes or celiac disease, infections, or injuries, or lifestyle issues such as obesity, smoking, or using drugs.
Emotional Effects of Male Infertility
Just as many people think of infertility as a female problem, they also don’t realize the emotional pain a man may feel with a diagnosis of infertility. Our society expects men to be stoic and hide any “negative” emotions. But an infertility diagnosis can cause men to feel inadequate or to see themselves as less masculine than other men. They can believe they are letting their partner down and are not able to perform, resulting in feelings of guilt, depression, or sadness. The pain of infertility is compounded for men because often they are not in tune with their emotions and may attempt to suppress or deny what they are feeling. They often are less inclined than women to ask for emotional support.
When to Get Help
If feelings of sadness, grief, or depression don’t resolve in a few weeks or if their relationship begins to suffer, men should seek help from a counselor, a psychotherapist, or a support group. If they and their partner are in treatment at a fertility center, counseling may be available through the center or by referral. It’s important for partners who are diagnosed with infertility to share their emotions and support each other. Research shows that the emotional pain of infertility is resolved eventually, by having a biological child, adoption, or deciding to build a childless life. But there’s no reason to suffer the emotional pains in silence and without help.
Our WIN for HIM program is specifically tailored to men on their family-building journey. Members will have access to our Nurse Care Managers and Reproductive Behavioral Health Care Managers, who become personal advocates to help with treatment options and the emotions that can arise while on a family-building journey. Patients also have access to at-home semen analysis testing kits, including 1 year of sperm storage, for easy and comfortable sperm testing. Our Nurse Care Managers will review sperm testing results and treatment options, if needed, with one of our in-network fertility specialists. Learn more today and take charge of your reproductive health.