Men are half of the fertility equation. Fertility problems are as likely to be male in origin as female in origin (40 per cent male; 40 per cent female and 20 per cent mixed factor/unexplained fertility problems).
And men, just as much as women, experience the pain and grief of struggling to become parents and feel the emotional and physical fall-out from fertility issues in other areas of their lives.
In a 2015 survey commissioned by Fertility Network UK, in conjunction with Nuffield Health, 60 per cent of men who had experienced fertility issues revealed that they had negatively impacted their relationship. One in three said fertility problems had a negative influence on their work life and 40 per cent felt they had an adverse effect on their mental health.
However, the male perspective can often be overlooked or side-lined. There may be pressure to be ‘the strong one’ during fertility investigations and treatment. Men may also feel ‘powerless to help’ as, so often, it is their female partner who is undergoing the tests, or treatment and feeling the effects of fertility medications.
Physical intimacy may suffer: as a result of the loss of spontaneity around sex, the pressure to perform, or the ordeal of treatment – for you or your partner. The path to resolving sexual issues is to keep lines of communication open with your partner. You are both on the same journey, and although you will experience it in differing ways, both your perspectives are equally valid.
Male fertility issues can be hugely isolating. Men don’t always find it easy to open up and talk about fertility problems with friends, family or colleagues – sadly, this means it can be very difficult to receive much-needed emotional support.
Although face-to-face peer support groups are for men as well as women, they can often be seen as a ‘woman’s thing’. Male only online support groups are an alternative: for many men the anonymity they offer is welcome, as is the chance to talk to other men facing similar struggles.