Even with approximately 40% of infertility cases in the United States being linked to male factor infertility, there isn’t a wide range of information and support easily available for men. Men can experience the same emotional journeys and relationship difficulties as women when facing difficult conceiving. It’s only natural that men would seek the same kind of support for infertility issues, but a lack of resources and perceived social stigma can make this challenging. Read on to learn more about how to give support to hopeful fathers facing male infertility.
Navigating Male Infertility
The so-called “stigma” of male fertility issues can hinder a man’s sense of comfort while seeking support for a fertility condition. Many men put off or ignore the need to communicate the stress they feel during this time because they are under the impression that they should just “deal with it.” Unfortunately, this kind of attitude toward male fertility issues is common, and it is not healthy. Any fertility specialist can tell you that open, honest communication is important during testing and treatment because it can be a stressful time for many who find their hopes and dreams in the hands of a doctor.
With the right amount of fertility education, communication, and support, male infertility doesn’t have to be tied to such a stigma. It is important to help open up the conversation and offer support to help men going through the fertility journey feel less isolated and more comfortable in their options.
Communicate and Listen
Talking about hard things is challenging to many, so start the conversation with easy-to-answer questions like “So what are you thinking about all of this?” If he starts talking about his thoughts, he’s likely to segue into his emotions, too. Repeat his statements to let him know that you are listening, understanding, and accepting whatever he says about this infertility problem. This gives him the opportunity to hear himself, change or fine-tune feelings, and know and accept his feelings.
And even though you may want to, try not to contradict negative statements like, “I can’t deal with this treatment.” Making someone going through male infertility feel safe and supported is crucial. Assure him that his feelings are normal. In stressful situations like this, many people just need someone who will listen.
Keep Him Involved in Daily Life
Fertility treatment is a huge part of daily life if you’re in it, but make sure he is still putting time into the other things he has going on – his family, his job, his friends, etc. It will remind him that he is needed and wanted outside of the stressors of infertility and that life can still be enjoyable while going through this journey.
Try a movie night, an exercise class together, a comedy club, or games as an intermission in the middle of an ongoing fertility drama. Competitive games like cards, watching or playing team games, video games, and crossword puzzles can be engrossing enough to keep him in the here-and-now and give him a break from any of the stress.
Encourage to Join a Support Group
Fertility support groups are an excellent resource for men who face an infertility diagnosis. If he finds that he feels isolated, if no one understands what he is going through, if he doesn’t have many people to reach out to, or if he is having a hard time making decisions regarding future treatment, support groups are filled with people who are experiencing the same difficulties and can make a big difference in your outlook during fertility treatment.
Support groups come in many different forms – they can be online or in-person, all-male or mixed gender, and can include members going through a specific diagnosis. These groups offer a safe, friendly environment to discuss progress as you undergo treatment or make decisions on future family-building options.
There are many resources and myths floating around when it comes to fertility, and a hopeful father may be blaming himself for his fertility problems. One important thing to do to support someone going through male infertility is to learn the facts together and know fact from fiction.
The biggest thing to learn and understand is that both men and women are equally likely to have fertility problems. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about twenty-five percent of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility, and in approximately 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility. Therefore, it’s not unusual for the male partner to have a fertility problem.
Unfortunately, male infertility can feel like an isolating diagnosis. With so many articles and conversations revolving around female infertility, it can be difficult to find resources for hopeful fathers who are seeking answers and support. Whether you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone who is facing male infertility, use the tips above to help them feel supported and loved throughout the process. If you or a loved one is experiencing male infertility, talking with a fertility specialist may help identify solutions and the best options for you.