Fertility issues affect men and women equally, but how each sex responds is quite different.
While women tend to be more knowledgeable and open about their reproductive health, it would seem men would rather take a kick to the groin then talk about what’s going on down below.
Blame society for some of the discrepancy. Infertility is considered a women’s issue primarily, though men contribute to 50 percent of fertility problems and are solely responsible for a third of cases.
By nature, women are more aware of their fertility, as their monthly cycle is an indicator. Guys have no innate monitor for their sperm’s morphology or motility (and most have no idea what those terms mean), so they don’t contemplate male reproductive health much.
But regardless of societal perceptions, each gender is suffering with fertility problems. One in eight women and one in 10 men have experienced infertility. To put it another way, when you gather with friends for your New Year’s Eve party, chances are at least one male and one female in that group is dealing with infertility.
Recently, Verily magazine did an informal survey of men’s and women’s reactions to fertility statistics. While most women were concerned about infertility already and were interested in learning more, guys were quite surprised about the numbers.
One guy said: “It would be very tough for me to acknowledge being the problem, but I would hope I would, for the sake of my marriage.”
Indeed, infertility is a tough pill to swallow for guys, and much of it is because of the male ego.
“They take it as an affront to their masculinity and virility,” Dr. Philip Werthman, a male fertility surgeon, told ABC News. “For some men, it becomes an emotional issue and an ego issue to not be able to fulfill their masculine duty and take care of their wives and provide, in a sense, and can lead to denial.”
Denial, or ignorance, may be the reason that 80 percent of men in infertile couples won’t receive a fertility evaluation.
There’s also a social stigma attached to male factor infertility. Guys are embarrassed about it, which often keeps them from talking about it or seeking peer support.
Liberty Walther Barnes, author of Conceiving Masculinity: Male Infertility, Medicine and Identity, said she joined National Fertility Association Resolve and noticed that only a few men attended support meetings.
But peer support is vital for people dealing with infertility. Denny Ceizyk, author of Almost a Father and advocate for male fertility awareness, started a Resolve support group when dealing with infertility.
“It saved me,” Ceizyk told ABC News. “It was normalizing to have the commonality of experience with other men. It ended up being a team effort and, by starting to actually learn the medical terminology and participate in conversations, we got much closer.”
Infertility affects about 7 million couples. Ask any couple experiencing it, and you know it can be stressful, frustrating, and heartbreaking for each partner. That’s why guys owe it to themselves, and their spouse, to check their fertility status.
And it’s easier than most think. You don’t even have to go to the doctor to supply a sample. Guys can check their fertility at home with SpermCheck, an over-the-counter product that measures their sperm count.
One in 10 men experience infertility. The percentage is high enough to check if you’re one them. And if you are, you don’t have to see it as a knock on your manhood or stay silent about it. You’re not alone. There are support and resources on your journey to fatherhood.