It was a great day for women (especially Nigerian women) when science discovered men could actually be the cause of infertility. Sigh of relief! But it’s actually not an issue to joke with.
Infertility has long been thought of as a female problem. It is usually assumed that the woman is the one with the problem when a couple has been TTC for a while. Sometimes with a lot of accompanying embarrassing questions and remarks.
We now know that the woman is not always the guilty party, so to speak. Male infertility is actually much more common and on the increase than we think.
Common causes of male infertility include but are not limited to:
- Infections like Chlamydia, which cause inflammation in the testicles and damage sperm cells
- Injury to the testicles
- Taking anabolic steroids
- Varicoceles, collection of varicose veins in the scrotum ( a very common cause of male infertility)
Helping him cope
Let’s assume the necessary tests have been carried out, and it turns out he has a problem. It’s safe to assume you can heave a sigh of relief and have many meaningful conversations together while he gets treatment right? Wrong! Many men would instinctively want to clam up and not talk about the problem.
Here’s why, and a few things you can do to make it easier for him:
- Men typically would not think about their fertility as long they are producing semen. They assume all is OK. Finding out things are actually not OK and his chance at fatherhood is in question can be very humbling.
- He is afraid of how you would regard him now that he has been labeled as infertile. You know that sensitive male ego our mothers always warned us about? Now would not be a good time to start second guessing his decisions around the home.
- If he needs to make some serious lifestyle changes (quitting smoking or losing weight) some tough love on your part may be in order. You need to encourage him to alter his diet and even take up some form of exercise you can both enjoy together.
- Male infertility can be quite challenging to deal with emotionally. A woman, for example, can call her friends or her mum to cry on their shoulders but a man would not want to do that. A woman could also go on social media, or an online forum, to discuss her feelings, but a man would balk at that. You, as a spouse, may begin to feel sad for him, or angry. Feelings of being shut out and isolated are also common if he’s not ready to talk about it. Maybe you are even feeling a tiny, little bit happy that you are not the one at fault. Don’t make this about you. It’s important you show him a lot of silent support by letting him know you are there come what may.
- It’s easier for a woman to get counselling and quickly build a support network when TTC, than a man would. For example, even in our religious institutions, there are so many waiting on the Lord groups and committees for women but very few for men. In fact, I personally have never come across any Church group for men battling with infertility.
- Men tend to want to handle problems by themselves, thus they are less likely to seek help in time, the way a woman would. Tying to push him to move faster could escalate into frequent arguments that would do you both no good.
- Honour his feelings. Find subtle ways to let him know you are willing to talk, or just listen. Spend time together without always bringing up the subject. This would give him some time to accept the situation on his own terms, and together you can now plan the next steps to take.
- Don’t throw him under the bus and begin a blame game. Avoid discussing this issue with close family members and friends that have direct contact with him unless he wants you to do so. It would be a breach of confidence, and trust, if one of them were to carelessly blurt out the matter while you are having a family gathering or meeting. Sometimes people who ask questions are not asking because they want to, or can, help but because they just want to be nosy and mischievous.
Parenthood is a greatly rewarding venture in many ways, but don’t make it a condition of your remaining together. If you can maintain the lines of communication and the bonds that keep you as one, it is very likely a solution would eventually be found to whatever infertility issues he is facing.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here