Men often feel side-lined during fertility treatment, and it’s affecting their mental health. Here’s why you should seek help as soon as possible.
Do you feel alone with your fertility issues? Isolated and unsupported? Then you’re not, actually, alone.
Around 1 in 6 couples struggle to conceive and in around 50% of those cases the issue sits with the man; yet men don’t seem to reach out for support so readily. Why is that?
Many men pop to their GP after trying to conceive for a while, to undergo their semen analysis, thinking it will all be fine. For the majority, that’s true. But for some it can turn out to be a devastating experience that turns their life upside down.
It’s at this point that things can start to unravel. No man goes into reproduction thinking he has a problem. Surely it’s the easiest thing in the world right? We are told from school age how careful we have to be around unprotected sex. So, to then find out that your sperm is sub-par and that you may not be able to have children can be devastating.
A crucial time
What happens after that is crucial and unfortunately, from the countless stories I’ve heard, it doesn’t tend to go well. I’ve worked with many guys who’ve been given bad news about their sperm health, either from a GP or sometimes even from the receptionist, and then received little or no guidance as to what they can do next. It’s not uncommon for men to be told, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing else we can do,” with little consideration of what impact that news may have on them.
For some this can have a major effect on their mental health and on their relationships.
Some feel a huge burden to support the partner through the fertility journey and find it incredibly hard to see her going through the physical and emotional challenges of IVF. Couple that with their own issues and challenges around sperm health then it can be a recipe for a very miserable man.
Sperm health can be improved for most men
It’s important to know that there is support available and that it is possible to turn around your sperm health. For some it’s a matter of improving their diet and lifestyle whilst others may need further specialist advice. But it’s essential that you get this help at the right time and that you know where to go for that help. It takes around 100 days for sperm to mature so any changes need to be done well in advance of any IVF treatment. In fact, it’s a good idea to work on fertility health well before thinking about starting a family, let alone starting IVF treatment.
Fertility education is not currently sufficient – in schools, GPs or elsewhere men get health information. So it’s important that you know where else to go to get further medical advice, beyond your GP.
Changes to diet, lifestyle and stress management can herald fantastic results. They also might help you to feel like you’re doing something positive to help. But for some, making lifestyle and diet changes can be hard work, like a never-ending New Year’s resolution. However, if you find someone who is equipped with the right information and the skills to help coach and support you through these things then it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Men should feel empowered and supported through their fertility challenges and not side-lined. It takes two to make a baby and both men and women need the right support throughout their journey.
If you’d like more information or support then you can find more here.
Ian also co-hosts a monthly online support group for men on behalf of Fertility Network UK.
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