You’d think that as a society we would be more open to addressing issues of a sensitive nature, such as infertility. But even in this digital age, it remains a subject that many people feel uncomfortable discussing. When faced with the prospect of not being able to have children, many couples keep it hidden from friends and family.
When it comes to talking about the issue publicly, men and women remain distinctly silent. In an attempt to break down these barriers and encourage men and women experiencing infertility problems to seek help sooner rather than later, we’re sharing some insight into what social scientists refer to as “the silent struggle” or “hidden crisis” among men struggling with fertility issues.
What is Male Infertility?
Male infertility refers to the inability to conceive a child naturally, or the inability to maintain a healthy pregnancy. While the term infertility traditionally referred to female infertility, however, there is a significant percentage of men suffering from male infertility issues.
Male infertility can be caused by various factors, including infection, low sperm count (oligospermia), high levels of abnormal sperm (teratospermia), hormonal imbalances, genetic mutations, and more. Regardless of the cause of their infertility, men often feel that it’s their responsibility to “fix the problem”, regardless of the fact that, in most cases, infertility is a shared issue.
Why Has There Been an Increase in Male Infertility?
While there are a number of factors surrounding male infertility that can be easily identified, there is little consensus surrounding the cause of a rise in male infertility rates. Some sociologists theorize that the increase in infertility rates is due to a rise in environmental toxins impacting the health of men.
When an increasing number of men are reaching their mid-thirties and beyond, the likelihood that they will experience infertility will also increase. Others argue that the increase in infertility is related to the aforementioned rise in environmental toxins. Alcohol, drugs, and certain medications, for example, have been shown to have a negative impact on sperm health and quality.
The Impact of Infertility on Men
The impact of male infertility on men is, of course, primarily emotional. As is often the case with issues relating to health, especially when those issues impact a person’s ability to conceive, men often feel ashamed, guilty, and embarrassed to discuss the issue openly with friends and family.
Because of the perceived “stigma” associated with male infertility, many men feel as though they’re alone in their struggle. They may be reluctant to seek professional help and, as such, may wait longer than necessary before visiting a doctor or urologist and discussing their options. The impact of infertility on men can also be financially significant. Male infertility has been linked to a rise in IVF procedures, as well as intrauterine insemination (IUI), both of which can be expensive.
The Impact of Infertility on Women
The impact of infertility on women is often overlooked, yet it can be just as significant as any impact it has on men. As such, it’s important for men to be aware of the impacts it can have on women and to be sensitive to those impacts. Many women may feel guilt about their partner’s infertility. It can be difficult when the person you love is unable to conceive a child with you, and infertility can often prompt feelings of inadequacy and feelings of “not being enough”.
It can be challenging to deal with these feelings and, as such, infertility can be a difficult issue to deal with. Infertility can also have a significant impact on a woman’s financial situation. While many couples can afford to wait and attempt to conceive naturally, the majority of couples will turn to some form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) once they’ve been unable to conceive using natural methods for a year or more.
How to Support a Partner Struggling with Infertility
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is struggling with infertility, there are a few things you can do to support them. First, be patient. It’s important to understand that infertility is a difficult issue to deal with, and it’s unlikely that your partner will “snap out of it” anytime soon without treatment. Instead, they’re likely going to need time to work through their emotions.
Next, make them aware that you’re there for them. While you may feel that saying “I’m here for you” is trite and impersonal, it can be incredibly meaningful to someone who is struggling with infertility. Finally, be respectful of your partner’s decision to seek help. There are a number of ways to assist someone who is struggling with infertility, including seeking help from a counselor or psychologist.
Seeking Treatment for Male Infertility
Men who have trouble conceiving may be referred to a urologist for evaluation and treatment. The primary reason for this referral is that male infertility affects the reproductive system in men as well as women. It is therefore important to consult a urologist if there is any suspicion of infertility. A urologist can evaluate the reproductive organs, including the testes, sperm production and motility, and semen analysis. Urologists can also prescribe testosterone replacement therapy if needed.
The main causes of male infertility are endocrine disorders, such as hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction, (commonly caused by low testosterone), spinal cord injury, chemotherapy or radiation, varicoceles, infection, or cancer. However, most cases of male infertility are idiopathic, because they cannot be explained by any known cause.
Most men with fertility issues will need to undergo some form of treatment before they can conceive a child. How long someone needs to wait before starting treatment depends on the cause of their infertility and other factors. Some men may need only a few months before they start seeing results; others may need longer.
Once you have been diagnosed with male infertility, you should arrange for regular visits with your urologist as part of your treatment plan. After every visit, you should discuss any changes in your results or symptoms with him or her. If you have any questions about your situation, feel free to call Z Urology!