Infertility affects 1 in 7 couples and impacts both men and women in the UK. Male infertility can be the sole cause in around 30% of cases and despite the figures, much of the discussion around struggling to conceive is mainly focused on women’s experience and perspective. Thus leaving most men feeling unacknowledged when it comes to infertility.
Some argue that men are unsupported due to society's expectations around how they ‘should’ react when faced with personal turmoil. Men are expected to be tough, unemotional and to not want to talk about infertility.
So, just because men are perceived in this way, are we suggesting they don’t experience feelings of pain, loss, anger, guilt and embarrassment when diagnosed with infertility?
Following National Fertility Awareness Week, an increasing number of men spoke out, and are continuing to do so, about their experiences of infertility and showing society that they do want to talk about it.
When asked, men often express that problems with fertility challenge their sense of masculinity and leaves them feeling embarrassed and isolated.
Facing the emotional trauma of infertility diagnosis can be a very painful experience for men, with some confessing that they are experiencing symptoms of depression as a result. So, we must focus on prevention, support networks and removing the taboo of male infertility by continuing to have conversations around the issue.
When talking about prevention, fertility education is crucial. Both men and women have a biological clock. Men’s infertility also declines with age, although later in life when compared to women, it is still important to keep in mind.
There are also many lifestyle factors that can affect male fertility; smoking, high alcohol intake, drug use and a bad diet can all have a negative impact on sperm function. There are also other factors such as an intermittent increase in scrotal temperature (taking hot baths, sitting at a desk or on a sofa for long periods of time) that can also contribute negatively.
Making better choices and looking after your physical and emotional wellbeing can help improve sperm quality, alongside many other benefits.
There is no right or wrong strategy of dealing with infertility and although some can be more beneficial than others, it’s all relative to each individual.
Being proactive and doing research into what your options are can be a positive way to start. It is important to know that, if you want to conceive, there may be options available. Going along to open information days at fertility clinics is a good way to understand different approaches to treatment and also gather as much information as possible before making any decisions.
If you are considering fertility treatment, the clinic staff will pay a big role in your overall experience, therefore visiting the clinic for open days and meeting clinical staff can be very useful.
If you are struggling, support networks are very important. This is when we need to get over the expectations surrounding gender. It’s normal to feel and want to talk about it. Whichever way you prefer to go about it, is up to you.
Generally, continuing with things you enjoy doing can be a great coping strategy. Whether it be engaging in social activities, hobbies, exercising or spending time with family and friends, it can all positively impact your wellbeing.
If you are struggling, seek support. Opening up to a family member, friend or counselling professional, will help to alleviate any negative feelings.
Lastly, we are also here to support you. If you would like to discuss your treatment options with a fertility doctor and gather information about CREATE’s Natural and Mild approach to fertility treatment, come along to one of our free open evenings.
Infertility network UK offer a range of support groups in different parts of the country which can be found here: http://www.infertilitynetworkuk.com/support/support_groups_6/england_wales
The national infertility support and information group: http://nisig.com/
Fertility matters: http://fertilitymatters.org.uk/
Fertility friends: http://www.fertilityfriends.co.uk/forum/