Let’s face it – in many cultures (including our own) infertility is often viewed as a ‘woman’s issue’
However, nearly half of all heterosexual couples struggling to conceive are dealing with male factor infertility. But because the woman’s body is the site of treatment and pregnancy, this fact gets overlooked.
Unless sperm is collected via a testicular biopsy (a rare procedure), all the male partner has to do is provide a sperm sample. Contrast that with their female partners, who need to take extensive medications and undergo invasive procedures – it’s clear why people see this as a ‘woman’s problem.’
More and more men are speaking out about their fertility issues, but the stigma remains
Bodybuilder Bradley Goldman is tired of being quiet on the subject, and he wants other men to know they’re not alone. “I feel like I’m your stereotypical masculine-looking man. I’m tattooed. I have muscles. I work out. And I’m infertile. How many other guys out there that have this machismo, this mind-set about them, are in my shoes as well?”
Goldman knows where his fertility issues originate. He suffers from varicocele, in which the scrotal veins tangle and heat up. This issue can often be addressed and remedied with surgery. Other men experience poor sperm counts and quality due to medical problems, obesity, medications, and steroids.
However, in many cases, even the doctors are mystified. Environmental causes, diet, smoking, pollution, alcohol consumption, stress, and genetics may all play into the issue
This is a global problem that is getting worse. Research shows that sperm counts in Western countries have decreased by more than 50% in just the past 40 years alone. Similar issues can be found in Asia and Africa.
Mentalities in the medical community are slowly starting to shift
Dr James Kashanian, a New York City urologist, has seen a move towards more thoroughly exploring male factor fertility issues before jumping to treat the woman. “Now, physicians, patients and couples are more aware of this male factor, and they’re looking to get answers sooner.”
He also explains that men are likely to experience many of the same feelings women face when confronted with infertility
Shame, guilt, and loneliness are all common, and many men feel that they are alone. In a 2017 study, 93% of men surveyed said their infertility negatively impacted their self-esteem and overall wellbeing. However, while women often seek out counselling and online support groups, men are more likely to go at it alone.
Thankfully, that’s starting to change
In addition to men like Bradley Goldman speaking out, more online support groups for men are popping up. For instance, a popular Facebook Group called Men’s Fertility Support now has more than 2200 members, while one called TTC with Male Factor Infertility has more than 2500.
Andy Hansen, a St Louis X-ray technician, is one such member. As he puts it, “it doesn’t make you soft to talk about it. It doesn’t make you less of a man. To help other guys, putting my story out there and being vulnerable is totally worth it.”
Are you dealing with male factor infertility? Do you or your male partner identify with anything in this article? If you would like to share your thoughts and feelings, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com.
Let’s continue this valuable conversation!
Read more on male fertility by visiting the Men’s Room here