While there are plenty of articles and resources out there for women struggling through infertility, we’ve found it’s much harder to locate those same things for men. But men aren’t excluded from the challenges that come through infertility!
Whether you have infertility factors, your spouse does, both of you do, or your infertility factor isn’t identified, infertility will affect a couple as a whole rather than just one or the other.
First, we want to start with understanding the basics of infertility. After all, a lot of the pain that comes from infertility can be eased slightly by understanding fertility better. There are two main types of infertility - primary and secondary. Primary infertility is when a couple has trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term, while secondary infertility is having those same infertility issues after naturally conceiving at least one child.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of couples struggle with infertility. This means the likelihood of you knowing someone else who has infertility is relatively high. However, because this can be an emotional topic - for both men and women - many people avoid the conversations.
While we don’t believe in playing the “blame game” for infertility - it only hurts relationships - it is good to understand infertility factors because it may help you to find a solution (whether it’s aiding in conceiving, or deciding to go a different route). According to the most recent studies, infertility is split between about 1/3 female factor, 1/3 male factor, and 1/3 unexplained or combination. Again - there are infertility factors, but infertility factors are nobody’s fault.
There are so many options for support through infertility! What works for one person may not work for others.
1. Support Groups
Just as there are support groups for everything else, there are support groups for infertility - and even some of those groups geared specifically towards men. Men and women often process things differently, so finding a group specifically for men finding their way through infertility may be useful. While they may not be found in all areas, there are also some you may be able to find online. You may want to ask your doctor for suggestions, or do some research on the internet. The right support group for you might even be something as simple as a casual Facebook group supporting men through infertility.
Finding a good counselor can be one of the most beneficial things for any situation you’re struggling through. If you’re looking for a counselor to help you process and better understand your feelings about infertility, you may want to look for people who specialize in family dynamics. You may find it useful to find someone who does one-on-one counseling as well as couples counseling. This would make it easier for your significant other to join you every couple of sessions if you and your counselor think this will help.
3. Keeping Communication Open
One major concern or problem that some couples face is decreased communication. As we said above, couples counseling may help you understand how to keep communication open and honest, but there are plenty of ways to do this at home too. Remember to talk about everyday things, but also discuss what’s affecting you today. Are you sad that infertility is taking up so much of your life? Do you feel like you’re losing your identity to all of the testing and schedules? These are important things to remember, and you should feel comfortable sharing these things with your significant other (and vice versa).
4. Attend Appointments
Often, when a couple is going through infertility, they end up having many appointments with professionals. Even today, a lot of the focus of these appointments is on the woman. This is something many providers overlook - while much of what’s happening to make pregnancy happen is in the woman’s body, men are also still involved. But it’s easy to feel left out and uninvolved. If you have questions, speak about them with your significant other before going to the appointment. Discuss both of your questions, and write them down in a rough priority order. Take turns asking questions. By doing these simple things, doctors will include you better, and you’ll have the opportunity to have your questions and concerns addressed directly.
In addition, if you don’t feel like your questions are being appropriately answered (or even if they are!), consider seeing a doctor separate from your partner’s provider. While there’s not an entire specialist category of doctors for men’s fertility like a gynecologist is for women’s, you can find a urologist who specializes in men’s fertility. They should have a better overall understanding of your system and conditions than seeing a women’s fertility specialist.
5. Don’t Forget to Live
The last thing we want to share is that you shouldn’t let infertility stop you from living the rest of your life. Continue doing activities you enjoyed before infertility became part of your life - go on dates and trips, hang out with friends, play a sport, etc. Losing important parts of your life can make you feel more isolated and alone.
Ultimately, our suggestions come down to a few things: find people to surround yourself with who you trust and can help to support you, and don’t let infertility stop you from living. Do you have any other suggestions? If so, share them with us on Instagram!