Men and coping with infertility

It is sometimes suggested that men are less emotionally affected by infertility than women – as if having a family is something that is more important to women than men. While it is true that all of the women we spoke to had very much wanted to have a child, this also applied to many of the men. 
Martin said that he battled with his emotions – he very much wanted to have children and was disappointed that he could not make it right. “I battled with my own emotional elements for the want of a family and the disappointment…”.
George was surprised that he “burst into tears” when he found out there was a problem with his sperm. He already had two grown up daughters and was shocked when he started to feel very bothered about his difficulties having a baby with his new wife.
Women were sometimes very conscious that it would be a huge disappointment to their partner if he did not become a father. Maggie explained that her husband loves children and Sarah said that she and all her friends thought her husband would be a perfect dad. Lulu said that they both found it very sad and difficult to be going through infertility treatment. 
Several of the people we spoke to felt that women and men either coped differently with infertility, or wondered if they just expressed their feelings differently. This could cause problems. Men sometimes concluded that their partners needed them to be strong and supportive and tried to hide how terribly upset and anxious they were themselves. Clare felt her husband reacted very differently to their miscarriage and for a while she felt that he didn’t care as much as she did. She later came to realise that he was just dealing with their loss in a different way.
Carol thought that women tend to talk about their problems, but men, “Definitely don’t have a release and I think that’s a shame”. Olivia, who had spent several years running workshops for donor parents, said she felt that men and women do tend to approach things differently. While women feel the need to connect, men (on the whole) want to “ponder things internally”. 
Tim felt that he suppressed a lot of his feelings, as he was focused on trying to support his wife. But this could be a difficult juggling act, trying to get the balance right.
Some of the men (and women) we talked to thought that having a child was less important for them than for their partners. Steve said that he had been in two minds about whether he wanted children and James said that a possible benefit of having been through fertility treatment was that he had a bit more time to prepare himself for the prospect of being a father. Another said that it was just as well that he did not feel as desperate about having children as his wife did, otherwise he might have decided to leave her and have children with someone else.
However it was clear that men often felt the pain, disappointment, guilt and grief associated with infertility. Brian found it, “Horrendous, absolutely horrendous” and couldn’t believe how emotionally draining it was not to be able to have a child without medical intervention. “I mean we used to have tears on our way in, tears on our way out – heartbreaking”. Although he said that he had a “more clinical” approach to the treatment than his wife he was not sure this was a good thing. He described it as a “kick in the teeth” when the treatment did not work. He and his wife went together for counseling.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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