Infertile men are left feeling ‘worthless and isolated’

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  • Survey of infertile men found infertility hits males’ mental health and self esteem
  • Being infertile can also affect a man’s relationships, sex life and even his career
  • Men reported that fertility issues  were emasculating, distressing and isolating
  • But emotional support for men is scarce as infertility is seen as a ‘women’s issue’ 

Colin Fernandez, Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail

 Being infertile can leave men feeling ’emasculated’ and ‘jealous’ when they see another couple with a baby, a study has found.

A survey of infertile men found infertility hits males’ mental health, self esteem, relationships, sex life and even their career.

But emotional support for men is scarce as infertility is seen as a ‘women’s issue’.

The survey of 41 infertile men found participants had been trying to conceive for five years on average, the research by Leeds Beckett University and Fertility Network UK found.

A survey of infertile men found infertility hits males' mental health, self esteem, relationships, sex life and even their career. But emotional support for men is scarce as infertility is seen as a 'women's issue'

A survey of infertile men found infertility hits males' mental health, self esteem, relationships, sex life and even their career. But emotional support for men is scarce as infertility is seen as a 'women's issue'

A survey of infertile men found infertility hits males’ mental health, self esteem, relationships, sex life and even their career. But emotional support for men is scarce as infertility is seen as a ‘women’s issue’

The majority of respondents – 93 per cent – stated their well-being had been adversely affected by fertility issues.

Men reported fertility issues to be emasculating, distressing and isolating, harming their self-identity, and causing stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Comments made by respondents included it was ‘the most upsetting, dark and emasculating experience of my life’; ‘it made me feel less of a man’; ‘I now suffer with anxiety’; and ‘it made me feel worthless that I couldn’t have kids’.

Other comments included: ‘Our sex life immediately took a hit’; ‘seeing a baby I would feel jealousy, envy and anger’; and ‘I pushed my wife away’.

Another said: ‘I started rejecting my wife and told her to leave me. I was having problems having sex.

‘We have drifted from friends who have children. You feel like you’re stuck in a void of society, alone on an island.’

Men often felt excluded and marginalised during fertility treatment, with some respondents reporting a lack of sensitivity from healthcare professionals.

‘The whole experience has been focused towards my wife. Even consultant’s letters about my genitalia are addressed to my wife. There seems to be no equality.’

Some men said their career prospects and finances suffered too.

The survey of 41 infertile men found participants had been trying to conceive for five years on average, the research by Leeds Beckett University and Fertility Network UK found

The survey of 41 infertile men found participants had been trying to conceive for five years on average, the research by Leeds Beckett University and Fertility Network UK found

The survey of 41 infertile men found participants had been trying to conceive for five years on average, the research by Leeds Beckett University and Fertility Network UK found

‘I had a good career, good money and I went from this to losing my job due to all the stress. I did not discuss this with my employer as I felt too ashamed,’ said one respondent.

Another said: ‘We spent around £30,000 on treatment and will be repaying the debt for many years.’

Susan Seenan, chief executive Fertility Network UK said: ‘Men are half of the fertility equation. When they cannot create the family they long for without medical help they suffer and struggle physically and mentally just as women do, yet our major new survey with Leeds Beckett University shows that men’s needs are far too often ignored, with support scarce before, during and after fertility treatment.

‘This is unacceptable; we hope this survey will challenge the silence around male infertility and facilitate more male support groups.’

Dr Esmee Hanna, lead researcher, said: ‘We know from this survey and our previous research that men find infertility an isolating and emotionally distressing experience.

‘This survey shows just how impactful fertility issues can be to men’s lives, including on their work, relationships and self-identities.

‘There sadly still remains stigma and taboo about male infertility within society, but it is really encouraging that so many men shared their personal perspectives in this survey and that Fertility Network UK are leading the way in starting conversations about how fertility issues affect both men and women.’ 

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