When you think about infertility, you may consider the countless female celebrities that have shared publically about their struggle to conceive. Maybe a friend who has been hoping to see a positive pregnancy test for years, or a blogger who has been sharing her story since the start of her infertility diagnosis. Generally what doesn’t come to mind is the man’s side of the story. Even though male infertility is responsible for approximately 1/3rd of all infertility diagnosis, the personal stories from celebrities, infertility blogs by men, and conversations from friends facing the same struggle can be few and far between.
So what prevents men from speaking out about their story?
Being a supportive spouse: Women are often much faster to express their grief and frustration. In an effort to support their spouse, husbands may be quick to push their own pain to the side. Instead, they can focus most of their energy on trying to find a way to fix the problem.
A weakness has not been culturally acceptable for men: It can be difficult for anyone to hear that the reason for their spouse’s pain may be connected to them. So when low sperm counts or poor motility become a part of the equation, it can be easy to shift blame onto themselves. Making it even harder to share with friends or family that they are stressed, hurting, and grieving. The cards are unfortunately stacked against them in this area, as their friends are unlikely to know how best to respond if they do open up.
No one else is talking: One of the benefits of others being willing to start the conversation is that it allows everyone else a chance to become aware of this painful topic. Infertility is still seen primarily as a woman’s problem and most of the research and resources is focused on them. With few men leading the charge, it can seem like there is never a good time or way to bring up infertility with friends and family.
So how can we start the conversation and help the men in our lives address the pain and stress that comes from an infertility diagnosis?
A great starting point is simply asking how they are doing. It can be surprising how little people think to ask that simple question, and asking it more than once. We would also recommend joining our upcoming webinar, The Impact of Male Infertility to get tips from infertility therapist Jason Hughes to help men who are facing infertility with silence.