Infertility- A Male Perspective

March 8, 2008

Infertility is defined as the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected sexual relations.  In the United States, approximately 17%, or one out of six couples experience problems with infertility. Infertility is usually thought of as a women's issue.

Infertility is a Man's Issue, Too

This misperception is probably due to the fact that so much of reproduction and childbirth involves women in an obvious and profound manner. The important and crucial role of men in reproductive health can be taken for granted, until something goes wrong. Out of the 3.5 million infertile couples in the United States, approximately half are due to male infertility, and as much as 35% are exclusively due to male infertility. With statistics like these it is certainly worthwhile to examine infertility from the men's point of view.

Men Desire Fatherhood

It is commonly believed that only women have an overpowering and intense desire to become mothers. Studies have shown that infertility can have a devastating psychological effect on men as well. Research based on interviews with six men coping with infertility yielded the following insights about male infertility.

Profound Sense of Grief and Loss

The men in the study expressed not only a loss of their fertility, but also the loss of a "dream". They expressed grief that they would never have a child with their own characteristics. They felt "anger", "shock", "disbelief", "denial", "devastated", "emotional pain", "injustice", "frustration", "depressed".

Powerlessness and Loss of Control

After the initial shock of finding out that what they thought they had control of, the ability to impregnate someone and become a father, the men needed to regain their sense of control by seeking information and solutions which gave them a renewed sense of empowerment.

Inadequacy

The men's sense of masculinity was deeply questioned. When they compared themselves to other men with children, feelings like "failure", "less of a man", "defective", and "sexually inadequate" were expressed.

Betrayal and Isolation

The men expressed feelings of betrayal by friends, relatives, medical professionals and even their own wives. They sometimes felt unjustly blamed by their wives for the infertility, even though it was beyond their control. They also felt inhibited from sharing their feelings with others, at the risk of not being properly understood.

Threat or Foreboding Feeling

Upon the diagnosis of infertility, the men also felt a foreboding feeling of a threat about their future. They felt that everything about their future that they had taken for granted, such as their personal identities, families and marriages, now seemed insecure and at risk.

Need for Positive Re-evaluation of Situation and Self

Finally, after dealing with all the complex emotions of their infertility, the men began to try and glean whatever positive lessons they could from their situation. Some men felt more compassion, empathy and less judgmental of others in adverse situations. They were also forced to re-evaluate their masculinity and strengthen their self-worth as people, separate from their "maleness". As one man in the study put it, "Being infertile changes everything".

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