3 Ways Men Are Underrepresented in the Fertility Community
If you are struggling to conceive, the fertility community can be a great resource. Seeking support and advice from those who have gone through a similar experience or are currently sharing the same fertility diagnosis is advised – especially since so many infertile couples report that they sometimes struggle to communicate infertility to family and friends, even well-meaning ones.
With an open community that provides communication and encouragement, there are opportunities for couples to find relief from the stress of a modern, often longer, road to parenthood. But is the opportunity really equal for men and women?
Many men who experience an infertility diagnosis feel underrepresented in the fertility community. It is not for lack of effort on the community's part – there are many resources available that serve both sexes, as well as couples together. However, thanks to the continued stigma infertile men face, from the male partner's perspective the fertility community often seems primarily female-focused. Again, this is not something for which the community is responsible, but is a larger failing in our social perception of how male fertility correlates with masculinity, ego and strength.
Here are three ways men are still underrepresented in the fertility community in 2015:
As mentioned above, when the average person thinks infertility, they often assume that it is because the female partner is infertile. This assumption is hurtful in two ways: it puts undue responsibility on one partner over the other even though the disease cannot be helped either way, and it also forces unnecessary explanation from the male partner.
Male fertility support groups do exist, as do support groups that encourage couples to attend together, but they are not as widespread as female-only groups. Men are often left to turn to online-only support groups, which can be just as helpful, but they have fewer options should they prefer to seek in-person contact with other men who are infertile or are seeking treatment.
Articles on infertility, how to cope, what treatments are best, how to explain your diagnosis to family and friends, etc., often have a distinctly female-driven angle. The images used in these pieces are of women, the advice offered is mostly for women, and the suggestions are also very much appealing to women. Of course, these articles are important, and women who are infertile should have access to this information, but so should men needing the same advice.
Infertility is a disease, and just like any other disease, it deserves respect and efforts to educate the public. Despite the fact that infertility breaks down equally between female factor, male factor, and unexplained causes, the social construct of the disease remains a primarily female-driven issue. For those men who face low sperm count, no sperm count, or fertility lost due to an injury or cancer treatment earlier in life, this lack of attention and awareness can make an already difficult process even more emotionally challenging.