Infertility is defined as the inability to achieve a pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse. About a third of the time, infertility is attributed to male factors, with approximately another third attributed to female factors. Sometimes infertility is due to a combination of factors however sometimes no cause can be found.
- Hormonal problems can cause low testosterone levels
- Physical problems can include low sperm count, blockage of sperm transport, sperm antibodies
- Environmental factors such as exposure to mobile phones in pockets, heat exposure, diet, lifestyle, occupation, exposure to chemicals and heavy metals
Impact of infertility on couples:
For many couples, infertility and its treatment cause serious strains on interpersonal relationships, personal distress, and reduced self-esteem (Greil, 1997). Men and women may place significantly different interpretation on the experience of infertility: women have been shown to regard fertility problems as the major problem in their lives, whereas men regard fertility problems as having the same priority as a number of other major stressors in their lives (Andrews et al., ).
Women and men use different coping strategies when dealing with infertility. Women may use strategies such as seeking social support, escaping and/or avoiding, planful problem-solving, and reappraising their situation in a positive light (Jordan & Revenson, 1999).
Men may use avoidance coping strategies such as withdrawing, turning to work or another substitute activity to take one’s mind off things or they may use active confronting strategies such as seeking advice and talking with other people.
How you can help:
- Seek advice - Men’s use of strategies including seeking advice and talking to others has been shown to be a significant predictor of high marital benefit (Schmidt, Holstein, Christensen, & Boivin, 2005a).
- Talk about it - Men’s involvement in the fertility treatment process and willingness to talk about it led to less negative communication about infertility and women perceiving a more positive effect of infertility on their marriage (Pasch, Dunkel-Schetter & Christensen, 2002)
- Listen – you may not know what to do but sometimes just being there with an open heart can be enough
- Be informed – know the process and the procedures your partner will be undergoing and offer support at each stage
Key themes men discuss:
- Supporting partners - men discussed a sense of helplessness in their ability to support their partner; an inability to openly seek their own support in case this negatively impacts on their partner. Advice was exchanged on how to best support partners
- Pain of infertility - men reported feelings of neglect, unimportance, loneliness, and disassociation to the fertility treatment process
- Males perception that they are spectators
- Hopes and aspirations of fertility treatment