The Hidden Trauma of Male Infertility by E. Hanna
Infertility is Not Just An Issue For Women
For 40 per cent of couples who can’t conceive, the issue is related to the man / Alamy
There has been a lot of alarm in recent years about the declining fertility rates of Western men and the potential problems this may pose.
It is estimated that infertility affects one in six heterosexual couples, making it a common issue for those of reproductive age. For 40 per cent of couples who can’t conceive, the problem lies with the man. But despite this, fertility remains something that is traditionally viewed as a “woman’s problem”, with male infertility rarely spoken about.
This focus solely on women’s bodies and perspectives, often leaves men feeling unable to speak out or even talk about their own infertility and the impact it has had upon their lives. And our previous research has shown infertility can be a very difficult and stressful experience for men to go through.
Many men find fertility diagnosis and treatment highly traumatic. A time which was often likened to a “rollercoaster” – with a lot of men reporting feelings of sadness and despair.
Our latest study has built upon these findings to delve deeper into men’s experiences. And we found that many men were deeply affected by infertility – with some identifying it to be the most difficult experience of their lives.
Working with Fertility Network UK – the national fertility charity – we designed and distributed a questionnaire with a series of open-ended questions which allowed men anonymously to tell us about their infertility journeys.
Despite infertility still being seen as a taboo topic for men, we received a large number of completed questionnaires, offering rich, detailed accounts. Most respondents said it had affected their psychological well-being, mentioning anxiety, depression and stress-related ill health in their accounts.
In this way, the inability to conceive was often likened to grief, and many of the men felt that it took time and considerable emotional energy to manage such feelings of loss.
…Clearly, an ongoing stigma surrounding men and infertility contributes to men’s suffering. And this leads to many men coping with infertility in silence. Infertility can also create challenges within relationships between couples, further adding to the burden many men feel.
But the situation is slowly beginning to change, with more men coming forward to tell their stories and share experiences – often on onlinesupport forums.