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Male infertility; would you talk about it?

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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


31 thoughts on “Male infertility; would you talk about it?”

  1. Even here no-one wants to comment. I think infertility is a taboo subject all round and makes both men and women uncomfortable when it comes to discussing it. There are so many things that can effect fertility, even coffee and car emissions. We all need to talk more openly about it and we need to help men to feel they are supported and not just the supporter when it comes up for them in their life too. It’s awesome that you were brave enough to blog about it!

    1. Thanks Stella. It was maybe easier for me, it’s not something I have experienced first hand but I will gladly talk about it on behalf of those men and women that have,

  2. Infertility in general is definitely something that can be difficult to talk about as a man or woman, in my opinion. Though I don’t find it surprising men might not want (or won’t) discuss infertility with their significant other or GP. I do find the stats on how lifestyle choice can impact fertility to be somewhat surprising and a little worrisome. I agree with Stella – it’s something society needs to talk about more openly. #ShareWithMe

    1. I’d go further; I find it quite shocking that awareness regarding what affects fertility seems top be so poor. I do understand ‘though that women can find it tough to talk about and I would love to see stats comparing how open women are on the subject.

  3. Catie: An imperfect Mum

    I know most men in my family would find it very difficult to have an honest and open conversation about their fertility problems, It is such an important topic that needs to be raised. Well done for highlighting this issue. I think many men are not aware that eating less, drinking less and or stopping smoking may be part of the solution for them. #sharewithme

  4. Great post John. I hardly ever hear men talk about it. It’s either pushed under the carpet or the wife/partner talks about it for them. I asked hubby before and he said it would be awful as I guess makes you feel “less manly” which is silly but understandable. I hope awareness continues to be raised and it is easier for men to talk about it. xx #twinkytuesday #thetruthabout

    1. Eeek, yes, the “less manly” thing. I’ve always taken the approach it takes more guts to discuss such things but, sadly, that’s not how the majority of men are raised, hence why this seems to be an issue. Sad really.

  5. When we were trying for baby 1 I was worried that one or the other of us might be infertile when nothing had happened after a year of trying (and me being in my late 30s too) and I began approaching the doctor but I don’t think the husband wanted to think about it or contemplate it at all and fortunately he was let off the hook when I finally did fall pregnant after 15 months. I can definitely see what you are saying and yes, men should feel more able to talk about this as its nothing to be ashamed about. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout

    1. Oh wow 15 months of trying, yes, that would have concerned me. Any idea why your husband didn’t want to consider it? Regardless, it is sad men feel this way. I think it’s like Sarah (above) remarked, many guys feel “less manly” but that doesn;t address the core issue. Thanks for hosting #truthabout

  6. Louise Fairweather

    Infertility and bowels are 2 things that people would often prefer to ignore than go to a doctor. Very silly really x

    1. ….and possibly two of the most important parts of the body that shouldn’t be ignored. Especially in the case of young men when testicular cancer is such an issue. Thanks for commenting.

  7. You hear so much of women having infertility issues but never men. I just never thought about it until I saw your infographic wow. Thank you for linking up to Share With Me and I hope to see you again tomorrow for another great round. #sharewithme

  8. This is spot on – why isnt there anything anywhere on the WWW about male infertility. Why is it so hard for men to find information and support about male infertility? you hear so much online about female factor infertility, but as soon as mens infertility problems come into play, we hit the panic button. we recommend IVF or IUI, but noone wants to talk about why Male Factor Infertility is a problem and look into how we can resolve this?

    1. Thanks for commenting. You are right, male infertility isn’t seen as such a big deal yet men – and women – suffer as a result. Just got to keep raising the profile of it as an issue I think.

  9. Yes, you’re right here. Men feel hesitation to talk about their fertility problems but women don’t. There shouldn’t be a problem, to talk about fertility issues as it can make differences in the relationship.

    1. Wouldn’t it be great if men would open up about fertility issues? It must make a huge difference in relationships when people do open up about how they feel about the issues they face.

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