What Infertility Feels Like for Men and How to Cope
Couples who experience infertility may be surprised at the toll that the experience is taking on them. It is often one of the hardest experiences a couple can experience. Men and women typically handle these emotions differently. For men facing fertility problems, one of the biggest challenges can be simply opening up and talking about the issue. The diagnosis of infertility can also cause many males to question their masculinity; however, it is important to remember male infertility is not uncommon.
“Male infertility is present in 15% of all men, and 50% of all infertility cases involve a male factor – 30% of the time it is the sole cause and 20% of the time there are issues on the male and the female side,” says James M. Hotaling, MD, MS.
Men are often times overwhelmed and surprised by their diagnosis. This can lead to feelings of anger, low self-esteem, and depression. Some men even report symptoms of erectile dysfunction that started when they had trouble trying to conceive. Many times, it can be due to anxiety around performing. Couples attempting conception with timed intercourse or IUI often times have very little notice of when the female partner is ovulating. The window is quite small, putting a lot of pressure on the male partners to have intercourse or provide a sample at almost a moment’s notice. In these instances, some infertility patients are given sildenafil (Viagra) to give them reliable erections. For some men, just having the prescription and knowing they can use it, is all they need. Many of these men will only require the Viagra for a short period of time. They tend to discontinue it when their partner is pregnant and they feel less performance anxiety. If you find yourself experiencing a similar anxiety, it is important to let us know as sometimes it can be a simple fix. This can significantly decrease the stress for the relationship and the partners individually.
Tips on How to Cope with Male Infertility:
- Go to a Fertility Expert – make an appointment with a reproductive urologist to find out what particular issue you are facing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You can read about the causes of infertility
- Discuss with Your Partner – Talk about the options available and what procedures, if necessary, you are comfortable undergoing. We also recommend bringing your partner to your appointments.
- Improve Sperm Quality – read our blog post on nutrition and lifestyle best practices for sperm health.
- Exercise – research shows that regularly exercising helps reduce stress.
- Find a Support Network – Men are less apt to address their feelings but this can contribute to feelings of grief and anxiety. It is important for men to speak openly with their partners, close friends, or a professional. At Utah Men’s Health, we provide our patients with resources that can help them network with other couples experiencing the same stressors. Some patients also find they benefit from speaking with a sex therapist. One non-profit that has many resources for men in Utah is the Utah Infertility Resource Center (http://www.utahinfertilityresourcecenter.org)