One in 5 couples currently suffers from infertility. Since male factor infertility is the primary cause of infertility in one-third of these couples, it may seem strange to learn that most couples never even consider that infertility can be caused by a man; the vast majority of infertile couples believe it has something to do with the woman. It often comes as a shock to them when fertility doctors ask to test the man's sperm during initial fertility consultations.
A large part of a man's sense of masculinity is tied up in believing he is virile and his sperm is potent. Discovering that he is the main cause of the inability to conceive naturally can be a huge blow to his ego. Hearing his sperm count is low or his sperm are irregularly shaped and/or have low motility is crushing for most men. They come to see themselves as inadequate partners or lovers because they are not able to provide their female partner with a child. If the woman in the couple is desperate for a child and really struggling with their inability to conceive, the man may feel like he has let her down and that he is of no use to her. This can lead to depression, loss of self-esteem, and feelings of not being a "real man."
Men who are diagnosed with primary infertility may become withdrawn. They stop socializing with their friends and avoid their family. They may start spending a lot of time away from home because they cannot bear to see the disappointment on their partner's face regarding their lack of having a baby. If a man who is infertile is allowed to continue on like this it can wreck most of the relationships in his life.
Fortunately, there is help. Fertility doctors can explain to the man why he may be experiencing infertility and show him things he can do to improve the quality of his sperm. Just knowing that the infertility is not due to a lack of masculinity in himself can do wonders for his self-esteem. Knowing he can even take charge of his fertility can help him even more. A good fertility doctor can keep an infertile man from going too far over the edge into self-pity and depression and lift him up.
Giving the man choices in reproduction can also help heal his emotional wounds. If he doesn't care if the baby is biologically his, he may consider using a sperm donor to impregnate his partner. This choice gives men a feeling of control by allowing them to choose they way they become fathers. Using in vitro fertilization with the man's own sperm can also be an option in cases where sperm count or motility is low and there is nothing wrong with the sperm itself. This procedure puts the sperm right by the egg and fertilization can occur naturally. When infertile men are shown how to take control of their fertility, they usually bounce back very well from the initial affront to their masculinity.