The “Stigma” of Male Infertility
A diagnosis of male infertility comes with a range of emotional ups and downs that men and their partners have to process. One of these negative emotional triggers can be outside perceptions of male infertility – what it is, what it means, how it occurs, and what male infertility “says” about the person who is experiencing this condition. The truth is, male infertility can be caused by a number of factors and some of these factors are still unknown to medical science. Some known causes include low sperm count, retrograde ejaculation, among others. Regardless of the source of an individual's infertility, it's important to note that although a “stigma” may exist, this stigma is harmful to men.
The stigma of male infertility is often the reasoning behind why so many men wait for long periods of time (sometimes years) to visit a specialist for testing when there is an issue with conception. Of course, no one wants to be told that there's an issue in the first place, let alone that the issue could be found within their body.
When a man does manage to consult with a specialist and it turns out that infertility issues are present, feelings of failure, anxiety, personal disappointment, and anger are major factors that are later exacerbated by the immediate sense that they need to “keep quiet”. Misguided thoughts about not being a “real man” can unfortunately creep in, and men can find that they are stuck, unable to voice their concerns with family and friends until treatment options are explored. This sequence of thoughts and emotions are common with an infertility diagnosis, but the stigma which is often the source of this negative spiral is damaging and unproductive.
Doctors and fertility specialists are working to ease the symptoms of the male infertility stigma and change the culture of the conversation by educating the public on the truth behind those previously mentioned male infertility triggers – the why and the how of male infertility, but it is ultimately up to the individual and those supporting him to take the necessary steps that will ease the psychological effects of infertility. Starting to communicate your fears and concerns, seeking out a support group or professional support services, and reducing stress are all excellent steps. Please visit our blog post for more advice on how to cope with a male infertility diagnosis.