Emotional effects of male-factor infertility

An infertility diagnosis isn’t just a piece of paper or a conversation with the doctor. Despite the fact that it’s a fairly common condition, infertility affects many aspects of people’s lives, including their finances, their health, and their lifestyle.

One of the less-discussed effects of infertility is its toll on psychological well-being. The infertility journey can cause  all kinds of emotions and in many cases, it’s the first time individuals have experienced such feelings of distress and helplessness. Infertility can have serious and long-lasting emotional effects on adults, and sometimes, these require treatment as well.

The emotional effects of a diagnosis

In nearly one-third of all infertility cases, male-factor infertility is the reason a couple is having a hard time getting pregnant. Oftentimes this diagnosis has a significant emotional effect on male partners. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but in many cases, being diagnosed as infertile can cause feelings of loss, shame, and embarrassment among men. It can make men question their masculinity and wonder if something is ‘wrong’ with them. It can also drastically reduce their feelings of self-esteem as they wonder if they can continue their genetic line.

The emotional effects of treatment

Infertility treatment can bring a whole host of other psychological effects. It can be stressful to make medical decisions about treatment. Fertility medication can cause physical and emotional side effects, and understandably, many people worry about the cost of treatment. They will often wonder whether or not the fertility treatment will actually work out, and after couples have been trying for an extended period of time, it can be difficult to decide when they want to stop trying.

Relationships may experience a great deal of tension during this period, too, like if one partner wants to stop fertility treatments while the other does not.

Things to know about coping with infertility

There are a few important things to understand about the emotional effects that male-factor infertility can have on men. The first is that not all men experience infertility the same way. Some men are devastated by a diagnosis, while others are relatively unaffected; neither of these responses are better or worse than the other. The second thing to know is that emotional effects from infertility are extremely common, even if they’re not talked about much.

Things like counseling and support groups can be a huge help in these times. They often help to reassure people that they’re not alone, and that their feelings are valid. Consider speaking with your provider about the support options available to you; for example, the National Infertility Association at resolve.org can be a great resource for support. 

  • “Infertility fact sheet.” Womenhealth.gov. Office on Women’s Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Jul 16 2012. Web.
  • “The psychological impact of infertility and its treatment.” HarvardHealth. Harvard University, May 2009. Web.
  • ASRM Mental Health Professional Group. “FAQs – The Psychological Component of Infertility.” ASRM. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2016. Web.
  • “Men and emotions.” Resolve. Resolve: The National Infertility Association, 2016. Web.
  • Rebecca A. Clay. “Battling the self-blame of infertility.” Monitor on Psychology. 37(8) 44. Web. Sep 2006.
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