I can only think of one conversation I’ve had with a man experiencing fertility issues. It was a brief discussion. Considering the guy was a stereotypical, football-mad, successful, driven, hard drinking bloke, it was, nonetheless, an open conversation.
A new survey into the subject of male infertility shows this chap was something of a rarity. Released to coincide with National Fertility Awareness Week (2-8 November, 2015), the survey of 2,000 men has found us guys have real trouble discussing the issue. What’s possibly more worrying is a general ignorance to towards what causes infertility.
The survey was jointly commissioned by not-for-profit healthcare provider Nuffield Health and charity Infertility Network UK. In total, 2000 men aged 21 to 50 years of age from across the UK were quizzed by research specialist Atomik. The results revealed that;
- 52% of men would not discuss fertility with their partner
- 46% would not discuss infertility with their GP
- 25% of those questioned believe fertility issues are exclusively or normally a male problem (in truth it’s a pretty equal split 40% male, 40% female and 20% mixed or unexplained)
- Almost a third of those questioned admitted to having experienced fertility issues
- Of those who had experienced infertility, 60% admitted it had affected their relationship, one in three said it had impacted on their work life and 40% said it had affected their mental health.
Helen Lyall is a fertility expert and consultant at Nuffield Health Glasgow Hospital. Her experiences suggests the subject is indeed taboo for many men.
Lyall said; “From my experience, it is clear that men may be embarrassed to talk about fertility problems and it’s generally women who make the first step towards addressing fertility concerns. However, with one in six couples facing fertility issues, it is important to reassure men that this is not a taboo subject and to take away the stigma around discussing fertility.”
As for understanding what causes male infertility, the survey unearthed some shocking results. Awareness of the impact lifestyle can have was poor.
- 46% were not aware that being overweight or obese can affect fertility
- Over 33% of men were unaware that alcohol can adversely impact fertility
- A similar number chose to smoke regularly despite being aware the habit has a negative impact on fertility.
What stunned me was a lack of awareness regarding sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A staggering 55% of guys were unaware that STIs could affect fertility. Isn’t it sad and worrying that knowledge in this area is so poor?
The results suggest more information and awareness is needed regarding male infertility. This hasn’t been lost on Infertility Network UK.
The charity’s Chief Executive Susan Seenan said; “A key message in National Fertility Awareness Week is that men matter too. Men are half of the fertility equation; they experience the pain and grief of struggling to become parents too. However, the male perspective can be overlooked. The survey reveals that nearly half of all men feel there is not enough support and information for men about fertility issues and going forwards we hope to address this with men and their partners, as well as healthcare professionals.”
Of course surveys like this are drawn from relatively small samples. Even so, this one seems to have highlighted an issue that needs further exploration. In the meantime guys, don’t be shy of talking about infertility. Who knows, it may be the first step to helping you become a fa