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Stigma to support: Tips to address male infertility with empathy and understanding

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Nov 22, 2023 12:55 PM IST

Male infertility should be delicately handled with compassion. Here's how to dismantle stigmas, foster supportive dialogue around fertility challenges men face

Infertility conjures up images of struggling women, hormone treatments and IVF clinics yet, hidden beneath the surface of this widely discussed topic lies the untold story of men battling infertility alongside their partners. Men undergoing infertility treatments face unique emotional struggles that are rarely acknowledged or discussed openly.

Stigma to support: Tips to address male infertility with empathy and understanding (Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash)

The pressure to fulfill societal expectations of masculinity while also dealing with feelings of inadequacy can be overwhelming while the fear of being judged or stigmatised only adds to their already fragile state of mind. Hence, it is the need of the hour to address male infertility with sensitivity and compassion.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aarti Rapol, Consultant IVF and Fertility Specialist at Ankura Hospital in Pune, shared, “Just like females, a large number of males are struggling with infertility. Male infertility is a topic that is often overlooked, yet it affects millions of couples worldwide. There are several reasons why a man may struggle with infertility. Understanding these factors is crucial in finding the right treatment options.”

She revealed, “One common cause of male infertility is hormonal imbalances. Testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) all are vital for sperm production. Changes in the levels of these hormones can impact the quantity and quality of sperm produced. Genetics, obesity, and stress have also been linked to male infertility. Excessive weight gain can lead to decreased sperm production. Infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps or HIV can all result in abnormal sperm production. Overexposure to pesticides, chemicals, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use (including steroids) and certain medications can also take a toll on the man’s fertility. So, don’t forget that even men can face challenges in becoming fathers. Thus, the issue of infertility in males should be delicately handled with compassion.”

Problems faced by men with infertility

Dr Aarti Rapol said, “Men with infertility often face a unique set of challenges that can be physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining. While infertility is commonly associated with women, studies show that male-factor infertility accounts for almost half of all infertility cases. However, societal norms often place the burden of blame on women, leading men to feel silenced or invisible in the conversation surrounding fertility issues.”

Asserting that it is crucial to address male infertility with compassion because it not only affects the physical well-being of men but also their emotional and mental health, she said, “All too often, society puts immense pressure on men to be fertile and virile, equating their worth as individuals with their ability to father a child. This can lead to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and guilt for those struggling with infertility. By offering understanding and empathy instead of judgment or stigmatisation, we create an environment where men can feel supported and seek the help they need.”

Dr Aarti Rapol concluded, “Moreover, addressing male infertility with compassion allows us to challenge societal norms surrounding masculinity and fatherhood. Oftentimes, there is a misconception that fertility issues are solely a woman's problem or responsibility, but even men contribute to infertility. By breaking silence, creating an inclusive space for open conversations about male fertility issues, and providing support networks tailored specifically for them, we can help break down stigmas attached to male infertility. It is imperative to find appropriate treatment solutions to address male infertility.”

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