While it is not uncommon to hear about the emotional toll that infertility can have on women, the male side of the equation is seldom ever discussed. And that shouldn’t be the case. After all, the inability to become a biological father can deliver a significant blow to the male ego. To further put this into context, we need only look at a study published by the National Institutes of Health, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and also the world’s largest biomedical research agency.
The study revealed that men who underwent infertility treatments but were still unable to help their significant other conceive admitted to feeling less masculine. Many also said that they felt as though their concerns weren’t being taken seriously by the fertility specialists and other medical professionals that they turned to for help.
Why Men Are Less Likely to Talk About Their Fertility Problems
Not surprisingly, men are conditioned to keep their feelings bottled up to avoid being perceived as weak. This is especially true when it comes to their fertility issues. For these reasons, they are less likely than women to share with friends or family how not being able to father a child is affecting them. Furthermore, most men would rather not divulge information about their medical health unless doing so was absolutely necessary. Some of the most common health conditions that can contribute to male infertility include the following:
- Abnormal sperm production
- Undescended testicles
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Abnormally large veins in the testes
Despite regular unprotected sex, men with these health problems usually find it difficult to get a woman pregnant. It is also worth pointing out that the male partner plays a role in a third of the cases of difficulty conceiving. Even though most of the attention is focused on women, you can be assured that most of these men are also dealing with a certain level of stress and frustration as a result of frequently failing in their efforts in making their partners pregnant.
Male Mental Health and Infertility
Along with frustration, stress and a sense of shame, many infertile men are also struggling with depression, which can lead to their loss of interest in sex. Obviously, this will make fathering a child naturally basically impossible. In these cases, it would be a good idea to be seen by a mental health professional. Although most men will turn their nose up at the thought of sharing their feelings with a total stranger, counseling can help resolve feelings of depression and other psychological barriers that may be keeping them from realizing their dreams of fatherhood. Also, these counseling sessions might even motivate them to see a medical doctor to address any physical problems that might be contributing to their infertility.
How Does Counseling Help Resolve Depression Caused by Infertility?
Counseling to resolve feelings of depression brought on by fertility problems can take on many forms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy or mentalization-based therapy. The approach to counseling that the therapist chooses to use in helping men overcome depression is based on the severity of the disorder. Regardless of the approach, mental health counseling provides men with the following:
- An opportunity to speak openly about how infertility is making them feel
- Learning how to improve their relationship
- Identifying other underlying issues that might be contributing to feelings of depression
- Learning how to overcome feelings of self-contempt
Infertility problems can be just as emotionally devastating for men as they are for women. The biggest difference, however, is that most women are not too proud to ask for help. That said, if you’re a man who is struggling with infertility, you will be happy to know that many of the same physicians and mental health professionals that are available to help women can help you as well.