Published by Vanessa Green
July 06 2023
Published byVanessa Green
July 06 2023
Infertility now affects a staggering 1 in 6 people worldwide. Historically, it’s been seen as strictly a women’s issue, and as a result, most infertility advice is aimed at women.
But the truth is that up to 50% of all cases in which a couple can’t conceive is due to male infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Despite this alarming statistic, men experiencing infertility do not receive adequate care or have enough support when it comes to these reproductive challenges.
To recognize World Fertility Awareness Month this June, we’re taking a deep dive into why men have less help when it comes to infertility and how they can get the resources and guidance they need to navigate this often lonely and challenging road.
Insufficient social support for male infertility
Because it’s been labelled a women’s issue for so long, women have had more time to come to terms with infertility and create community groups to help share experiences and coping strategies with one another.
[Read our blog post: Taking Control of Your Reproductive Health: The Importance of Early Fertility Testing]
The issue of infertility is a less taboo subject among women who are becoming more vocal and open about their struggles. Forums, online and in-person discussion groups and Facebook communities are rife with advice, support and guidance for women undergoing these fertility challenges.
But even though they face the same financial, emotional, mental and marital strain, men experiencing infertility don’t have this same support network. Many female-focused groups on Facebook boast active membership in the tens of thousands, while men’s-only groups are few and far between, have fewer members and are less active on average.
Traditional gender norms around masculinity likely play a part, where men feel ashamed and emasculated by their inability to reproduce. Research shows that men often find opening up about these struggles and making themselves vulnerable can be a real hit to their ego, which is why so many choose to suffer in silence.
Another reason men are less likely to seek mental health support or voice their struggles is that they often feel guilty if their partner is bearing the physical toll of the infertility experience.
Whatever the reason, the lack of social support for men experiencing infertility is hugely problematic. From a psychological perspective, we know that social support and commiserating with others can help significantly reduce the negative emotional and mental impact of infertility.
A lack of reproductive urologists (RU)
Women tend to be more in-tune with their reproductive health from a young age, which includes having routine check-ups with GPs, appointments with gynecologists and regular cervical screenings. When potential fertility-related issues do arise, women are often referred to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for specialized follow-up.
[Read our blog post: How to Get Tested For Infertility at Home]
But even though 12% of men aged 25-44 experience some form of infertility, they aren’t expected to be as involved in their own fertility health. In fact, many have never met with a reproductive urologist (RU), nor do they understand the role they can play in screening for fertility issues. In fact, there is a scarcity of RUs in the US right now: only 200 practices in the country compared to around 1300 REs.
This lack of specialized support for men’s fertility issues is likely another reason many of those experiencing infertility don’t get adequate medical care for their reproductive health.