Infertility is a widely recognised health issue affecting couples around the world and while the emotional toll on women is well-documented, the experiences of men undergoing infertility treatment remain largely overlooked. Hence, it is important to explore the increasing openness and acceptability of infertility treatment among men, shedding light on their unique emotional struggles and the need for greater attention in this under-researched area.
The Hidden Burden of Male Infertility:
Traditionally, infertility has been viewed as a predominantly female issue, leaving men to silently endure their emotional journey however, recent studies have shown that men undergoing infertility treatment face intense feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and a sense of diminished masculinity. Many report a lack of acknowledgement from both family members and medical professionals, leading to increased insecurity and anxiety or in some severe cases, men have even experienced suicidal tendencies hence, it is evident that the infertility journey can be an overwhelmingly stressful period for men.
A Shift Towards Acceptance:
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Gunjan Sabharwal, Consultant – Fertility and Gynecology at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Gurgaon, revealed, “Despite the challenges, there has been a notable shift in male acceptance of infertility treatment over the past decade. Men are now more willing to actively participate in seeking assistance and addressing their fertility issues. Unlike in the past, they are not hesitant to undergo semen analysis and pursue treatment options, recognizing the importance of their involvement in the conception process. Medical professionals have also started to acknowledge and address male-specific concerns, creating a more inclusive environment for male partners. This newfound involvement and inclusion contribute to a sense of support and empowerment.”
The Stigma and Struggle:
Research conducted by Dooley, Nolan, and Sarna in 2011 revealed that many men perceive infertility as stigmatising and struggle to discuss their problems openly or express their emotions. Dr Gunjan Sabharwal shared, “The lack of societal support and understanding further exacerbates feelings of embarrassment and emotional scarring. However, it is crucial to recognise that social and family support plays a significant role in alleviating these negative emotions. By fostering an environment of empathy, education and open communication, we can help men navigate the complexities of male infertility with greater ease.”
Challenging Traditional Notions of Parenthood:
Highlighting that adoption and donor sperm options can be challenging for men due to concerns about the child not being biologically theirs, Dr Gunjan Sabharwal said, “Such choices may be seen as a threat to their masculinity, leading many men to opt for surgical sperm retrieval procedures when necessary. By reframing the conversation around alternative methods of conception, addressing the emotional impact on men, and providing adequate support, we can help men make more informed decisions while preserving their sense of identity and fatherhood.”
The Importance of Research and Support:
Dr Gunjan Sabharwal pointed out, “It is evident that male infertility is an under-researched area that demands attention. By conducting more studies and generating awareness, we can facilitate the development of targeted interventions and support systems for men undergoing infertility treatment. Initiatives focusing on counseling, support groups, and education can empower men to cope with the emotional challenges and redefine societal perceptions surrounding male infertility.”
She concluded, “The growing recognition of male infertility treatment and the associated emotional challenges marks a positive shift in addressing men’s needs. By acknowledging the impact of infertility on men’s well-being and creating a supportive environment, we can help them navigate the stress, anxiety, and perceived loss of masculinity. Continued research and awareness efforts are vital to develop targeted interventions and support systems for men. Through a more inclusive and compassionate approach to infertility treatment, we can better support couples and families as a whole.”
Courtesy – www.hindustantimes.com