How to cope if you're a male experiencing infertility28 September 2020
Society can often dictate that men are supposed to grin and bear it when times get tough. But if a low sperm count, or some other issue, is stopping your partner from falling pregnant, then staying true to the stereotype of being strong and silent is possibly the worst thing you can do. Here, we take a look at the other options available to men which involve opening up a bit...
Be proud, you're still a man
For many men, their masculinity can often be defined by their ability to procreate - being unable to do that can leave men feeling emasculated. “If you can’t get your wife pregnant, you can’t help but compare yourself to other men and feel inferior,” says Liberty Barnes, author of a book about male infertility. The facts, however, paint a very different picture as research has shown that even the most virile men with sperm counts going through the roof (not literally) can have fertility issues as it can be such a complex business. So puff out your chest, flex your biceps, and stay calm - you’re still a man.
Look for solutions
The problem with staying strong and silent is that you’re not actually doing anything to solve the problem - if you want to get your partner pregnant, there are practical steps you can take which can improve your chances. Your lifestyle choices can affect your sperm production, as fertility expert Dr Melissa Esposito explains: “Anything that increases heat production in the scrotal and testicular area is not good," meaning hot tubs, saunas and tight underwear are best avoided. Even bike riding can be problematic. Other social choices like whether to smoke and drink alcohol can also be important if you’re trying to conceive. "All of these can adversely affect sperm concentrations, how well the sperm are moving, and how many sperm are normally formed," adds Dr Esposito.
Depending on your specific fertility issue, there are many treatments available for men, which could increase your chances of conceiving - but these treatments are only available for the non-strong and silent types! A common cause of male infertility is varicocele, or an enlargement of the scrotal veins which can cause low sperm count or poor sperm quality, which can be fixed with surgery. Other treatments include hormone-stimulating drugs that help increase sperm production, and the many assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Talk to your partner
One thing you definitely cannot do by staying strong and silent, is talk to your partner - and seeing as this is a shared problem, you’re going to need to be communicating about it often, or you risk damaging your relationship. “The stress of infertility can absolutely ruin one’s sex drive,” says Dr Puneet Masson, which a strong reason to talk to your other half. “Couples need to be supportive of each other and find a doctor and a centre that they feel provides needed support in an environment that is medically safe and reassuring,” adds Dr Esposito.
Build a support network
As well as your partner, it might be really helpful to open up to other men - either your friends, or people who are going through the same thing as you. Although it might feel embarrassing to talk to strangers, it can be hugely helpful to hear from others who have shared the same experiences as you. There are also private Facebook groups where you can talk, if you’d prefer not to leave the house. If your infertility is leaving you feeling anxious or depressed, you could also seek counselling to talk about your worries. Whichever option you choose, you can never have enough support when you’re going through a tough time.
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