The Emotional Struggle of Male Infertility

Less than Virile

Five to Six million American couples suffer from infertility. With those numbers, you better believe they're getting attention. Or rather, she's getting attention.

Most available resources concentrate on giving emotional support to the female half of the equation, while the men tend to get lost in the sauce. That's probably due to the male dislike of drawing attention to emotions that might be construed as a kind of unmanly frailty. Just the idea of being infertile can make a man feel less than virile.

They're Not Talking

That means that men may not be willing or able to talk about their infertility. But holding back the tide of emotions brought on by infertility might create tension and stress which carry over into other areas of a man's life. The effect will be seen in his marriage, or in his work. His overall happiness quotient decreases with his heavy emotional burden.

In order for men to get the help they need, health care providers need to see the distinctions in the emotional reactions of men in relation to their infertility. Men want to put a brave face on things and tough it out, whereas women are more inclined to talk things over. Since children are not a primary topic of discussion between male coworkers, for instance, the impact of infertility may not be felt in males as swiftly as in females, who speak about children all the time.

If male sperm should turn out to be the cause of a couple's infertility, things may be worse. Men attach great significance to their reproductive functions and associate them with successful maleness. It may be too difficult for a man to cope with the idea that his sperm isn't fast enough, good enough, or in high enough concentrations to get the job done. That knowledge can be a real kick in the (excuse the pun) testicles.

Some experts attribute the disparity between the male and female response to the fact that men have no menstrual cycle to serve as a monthly reminder of their fertility of lack thereof.

For some men, the idea of carrying on the family name, via male progeny is an idea with profound importance. A infertile man may feel his family line, while under his auspices, has failed to perpetuate itself and that blame must be assigned to him, since the failure has occurred during his watch, so to speak. His masculinity is assaulted by his inability to protect his family name.

Once a man is confronted with the fact of his failure to father children, he must cope with the fact that his plans have changed due to factors beyond his control. The gender specific response to this experience is silence. Men are acculturated to associate strength with emotional detachment. However, this does not connote a lack of feeling.

Men may need to find ways to out their frustration, disappointment, and guilt, and this may mean taking on a heavier workload, or doing strenuous sports. It's crucial that they take action to recognize their burden and take steps to lighten the emotional load they carry.

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