Infertility has been found to impact 1 in 7 couples in the UK (National Institute for Health Care, 2013). It is a condition that impacts both men and women, however, research looking into infertility has been conducted around women. Thus, leaving men understudied when it comes to the infertility equation.
Many research studies to date, focused on the emotional rollercoaster of infertility and its treatments from the perspective of a woman. Does that mean men don't experience an emotional challenge whilst going through the process of infertility? Infertility is also a condition that is encompassed with stigma, which once again has been researched from the perspective of a woman. Does that mean men don't experience a sense of stigma? Some may argue that the lack of insight we may have surrounding male factor infertility is due to the fact that men don't wish to talk - however, has anyone actually asked men how they feel when faced with infertility? I had the opportunity to interview fifteen men to gain an insight into what infertility really is like for them.
Many of the men I spoke to explained that the presence of infertility somewhat challenged their sense of masculinity and made them feel like less of a man. Others even compared infertility to a dirty secret that is riddled with embarrassment. There was of course an element of stigma that was experienced by these men too. We've already established that men are understudied when it comes to infertility, so it comes as no surprise that they were left feeling unacknowledged when going through infertility treatments. Some men even discussed having a poor relationship with their medical professionals, this unfortunately even extended for some to members of their family. This may be due to the fact that infertility is an incredibly sensitive issue and people may not know what to say. Some men also reported experiencing mixed emotions towards the idea of using other conception methods such as adoption for example. This was followed by the acknowledgement that infertility is just as much of an emotional challenge for men as it is for women. It was reported that infertility is an incredibly painful experience for men with some men even fearing that they were on the verge of depression.
The underlying message behind these interviews is that men do wish to talk, it really is just as case of asking them how they're feeling or how they're coping with the trials and tribulations that encompass infertility. Another point that is worth mentioning, is the fact that infertility is as much a male problem as it is female.
Whilst researching men's experience to infertility, I came across a book written by someone who went through infertility and its treatments. Whilst there are many books looking into infertility, I found this book to be comical and incredibly honest. 'My Little Soldiers' by Glenn Barden' really does encapsulate what its like for a modern man to ride the infertility carousel in the modern world. Without a shadow of doubt, I recommend this book to any man experiencing infertility, as it really does give you the most truthful insight into the experience.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
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