Let's talk about male infertility

Male infertility is a factor in around half of all cases of couple infertility. However, there is a lack of information, advice and support for men with infertility issues. It’s not something that is widely spoken about. Perhaps there’s a stereotype that men don’t want to talk about this sort of thing, but this is definitely not always the case.

Image

Male infertility can come as a massive shock, as in most cases there’s no prior warning. This sudden diagnosis, the doubt it throws over having a baby, and the effect on a man’s sense of themselves and their masculinity can have a profound effect on men’s mental health. 

When infertility treatment is sought the medical interventions are always undergone by the female partner, and in only a very small number of cases the male partner also. The fact that the treatment for male infertility is focused on his female partner can cause a great deal of guilt and stress, a sense of responsibility for the intrusive and painful treatment their partner is undergoing, without being able to take the burden from them. This can lead to men suppressing their feelings and trying to look after their partner, in a bid to ‘be strong for her’. Whilst providing support to a partner is important, this mindset can overlook the male partner’s emotions and feelings around treatment and can lead to him feeling isolated from the process.

An infertility diagnosis can impact a man’s identity and his sense of masculinity and virility. Not living up to what they feel are society’s expectations about being a man can cause men to hide their diagnosis and suppress their feelings. Studies have shown that many men suffer from low self-esteem and depression after an infertility diagnosis, and some take their infertility as a sense of personal failure as it doesn’t fit with their sense of what masculinity is.

Some men lean on friends and family for support during this time, but for some this might not be enough, or might not feel safe for them to do so. It can be helpful to get support from people with experience around infertility and the treatment process. Each infertility clinic must offer the chance to speak to a counsellor before treatment, and many offer access to counselling during the process. Whilst there is much less support around male infertility, there are some support groups available through Men’s Health Forum, or HIMFertilty. Others may also want to use a private counsellor to give them more time to discuss their experiences.

For those who choose counselling with a specialist fertility counsellor, it offers a safe space to talk through what’s happening with someone who already knows about the process. Many men might not feel ready to talk about how they’re feeling with their partner or with their friends and family. Through counselling these difficult feelings can be expressed instead of being bottled up inside. 

Counselling is a place where men can talk about infertility treatment and their feelings about fatherhood.  It can also help men to talk about the impact of infertility on their identity, and to build up a wider sense of identity above and beyond their fertility status.

There is a lack of advice, support and information for men suffering from infertility issues. The focus of infertility treatment is on the female partner, meaning that men can feel left out of the process and isolated. Counselling offers a space for men to talk through their feelings about an infertility diagnosis, to get support during treatment and to help them understand its impact on their identity and how they feel about themselves. 

Whilst I have used the terms male/female and man/woman in this article, I recognise that all gender identities may have experience of infertility and the infertility treatment process.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Image
Bristol, BS7 8NT
Image
Written by Chris Mounsher, PG Dip, MBACP (Accred)
Bristol, BS7 8NT

Chris Mounsher is a BACP Registered and Accredited humanistic counsellor working in private practice in Bristol. He offers both counselling and fertility counselling, with a focus on male infertility.

Chris is a member of the British Infertility Counselling Association.

Show comments
Image

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals