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“There is a real stigma about male infertility that somehow makes a man feel like damaged goods,” says Janet Jaffe, PhD, of the Center for Reproductive Psychology. “In fact, some men feel like they are walking around wearing the scarlet letter “I,” when they really shouldn’t.”
Despite the fact that infertility is as prevalent in men as in women, it appears that the focus, as well as acknowledgment and support, is directed toward women and female infertility. “When people think of infertility, they think of women. Even with 40 percent of infertility being male-factor, the media tends to overlook it,” says William Petok, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in infertility.
It is important to realize that the emotional issues men face are real, and likely very similar to those a female partner may be experiencing. The difference is that a female partner will likely find solace in discussing her emotions with others, while the male may be more comfortable dealing with his emotions in a more private way.
“There is support, it just isn’t utilized. Men are encouraged to participate, but the formats, such as support groups, are situations that men tend to shy from. Men do not receive the same type of stress reduction from discussing issues aloud [as women do],” says Petok.
Men faced with infertility may experience anger, embarrassment, and hopelessness, as well as many other emotions. Learning more about the underlying medical condition and asking questions can be extremely helpful in dealing with these emotions. In addition to considering attending a support group, it is recommended that men browse the various online resources available to gain some much-needed insight into the emotional impact of the disease.
"Obtaining information online is non-threatening way to learn about your possible emotions.” adds Dr. Petok.
Remember – your partner is experiencing many of the same doubts and concerns you are. Although you may not be on the “same page” at the same time, her support is an integral part of entire process. Set aside some time to discuss your emotions with your partner – and consider utilizing other resources as well.