The pain of male-factor infertility

If a couple has difficulty conceiving a child, it is often presumed that there must be something wrong with the woman. However, many people are surprised to learn that an equal percentage of fertility problems – 30 to 40 percent – are caused by problems with the male partner. In fact, male factor infertility appears to be on the rise, although it is unknown exactly why this is occurring. Some factors that may be contributing to this trend include chemicals and toxins in the environment (e.g., pesticides, herbicides, lead based paint and solvents) and lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, poor diet, laptop use, excessive weight, marijuana use).

Although much of the attention in society and in the available literature is focused on the pain and grief experienced by infertile women, it is important to realize that the experience of infertility can be very difficult and painful for men – particularly if the fertility problem is identified as male factor. Men often feel that they have let their partner down and that they are less of a man, when they are unable to help their partner achieve a pregnancy. For example, Kevin Smith – a 42 year old man from Nottingham – tried to build a family with his partner for years, without any luck:

“I would think about it every day, all the time. Just seeing a child’s seat in the back of a car would hurt. And I couldn’t even see my first nephew when he was born because it was too painful.” 

Kevin was eventually diagnosed with male factor infertility. After Adam Cullingham received a male factor diagnosis, he struggled with his wife’s suggestion that they use a sperm donor to create their family:

“I didn’t like the feeling that I needed another man to make a family for us. It was a dark time for us with lots of heavy conversations.”

It is very common for men to be embarrassed about their infertility. As a result, they often suffer in silence or are reluctant to seek psychosocial support to work through their feelings of guilt and loss. Unfortunately, there are very few support groups or services available to assist men who are struggling with the pain of infertility. When Kevin requested counselling support he was told that there was nothing for infertile men, only for women. He feels that “not being able to be a father is a real agony and there should be more understanding of how men suffer.” 

In the end, with the assistance of fertility treatments, Adam and Kevin and their wives were able to achieve their dream of becoming parents. Unfortunately, not all couples have the same success – with some facing permanent childlessness.

Read an article about this issue here:

Fertility is the new battle for prospective dads [Express]

Read more about men’s responses to infertility here and here.

Read more about treatment options for male factor infertility here.


One Response to “The pain of male-factor infertility”

  1. ANONYMOUS. says:

    My wife and I started trying to have kids in 2006. We were casual about it at first, as we weren’t in a rush and we were still young (26). We were really patient, but 5 years later we still had not gotten pregnant. We visited the doctor who had me go for a semen analysis. Turns out my sperm count was low. Several tests later and we found out it was due to a benign tumour on my pituitary gland causing my prolactin to be high and my testosterone to be low. Unfortunately my sperm count is going down now, and not up. We’re looking at IVF soon, but it’s expensive.

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