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3 Ways to Support a Partner with Male Factor Infertility

Infertility is not only a women's issue.

Source: PeopleImages

A common misconception about infertility is that it is somehow only an issue that impacts women.

For example, you can find plenty of advice for women going through fertility treatment, coping with the hormonal changes, the dangers of self-blame, and the toll of recurre nt loss.

There is also advice that focuses on how men can support their female partners who are going through fertility treatment – be it helping to administer the medications, attending appointments together, or providing a shoulder to lean on.

But what advice is there for women looking to support their male partners who have been diagnosed with infertility? Not much.

So here are three ways for a female partner to support her male counterpart during an infertility diagnosis. Since you are in this together and every relationship is different, use what works for you.

1. Help Him Separate Fact from Fiction
There are many resources and myths floating around when it comes to fertility, and your partner may be blaming himself for his fertility problems. Here are a few facts to think about while you do your research:

  • Men and Women are Equally Likely to Have Fertility Problems
    According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about one-third of the time, infertility is a female factor, one-third of the time it’s a male factor, and the remaining cases are both or unknown. Therefore, it’s not unusual for the male partner to have a fertility problem.
  • He Doesn’t Have to be an Acrobat to Get You Pregnant
    Sperm are chemically programmed to travel toward your fallopian tubes and can be found in the cervical canal just seconds after ejaculation, no matter the sex position.
  • Tight Pants Are Not a Big Deal
    Despite all the warnings, tight underpants or jeans don’t cause infertility because they don’t usually change the temperature of the scrotum enough to make an impact.
  • Eating Habits Are Not the Answer
    Assure him that the infertility problem was probably not caused by potato chips or meat. Although some foods have hormone-like properties, you’d have to eat endless amounts of ginger and mackerel to boost testosterone enough to fix a fertility problem and even more brussel sprouts, soybeans or flax seeds every day to receive enough phytoestrogens (dietary estrogen) to affect male fertility.
  • He Doesn't Have to Stress About Stress
    Job or financial stress does not directly cause male fertility problems. Even if his sperm production, libido or erections are affected by physical stress (like a marathon) or emotional stress (like overworking or family issues), these disturbances are self-correcting and time-limited. In other words, even a stressed couple can still become pregnant if a viable egg meets a viable sperm.

2. Encourage Him to Vent
Talking about hard things is challenging to many, so start the conversation with easy-to-answer questions like “So what are you thinking about all of this?” If he starts talking about his thoughts, he’s likely to segue into his emotions, too.

Repeat his statements to let him know that you are listening, understanding and accepting whatever he says about this infertility problem. This gives him the opportunity to:

  • Hear himself
  • Change or fine-tune feelings
  • Know and accept feelings

And even though you may want to, try not to contradict negative statements like, “I can’t deal with this treatment.” Making your partner feel safe and supported is crucial.

Assure him that his feelings are normal. With stressful situations like this, many people just need someone that listens.

3. Keep Him Involved in Daily Life

Fertility treatment is a huge part of daily life if you’re in it, but make sure he is still putting time into the other things he has going on – you, his job, his friends, etc.

It will remind him that he is needed and wanted, and more than just a source of sperm. It’s common for men to confuse virility and fertility, so reassure him that his sperm does not define him any more than your eggs would define you.

Try a movie night, an exercise class together, a comedy club, or games as an intermission in the middle of an ongoing fertility drama. Competitive games like cards, watching or playing team games, video games, and crossword puzzles can be engrossing enough to keep him in the here-and-now and give him a break from the stress.

Remember, most research on stress levels during infertility treatment has been centered around women, so most advice about coping with infertility is female-centric. But if you’re reading this article, you know that men need support and help during this anxiety-inducing time as well.

And since a partnership is a two-person job which is meant to benefit you both–your efforts can make a huge psychological impact on his mental state, as you continue this fertility journey as a couple.