Talking about infertility can be especially difficult for men because of the lingering social stigma around the issue. This means that it can be harder to find online resources aimed at guys dealing with male factor infertility You might not see many other men stepping up to talk about their infertility experiences, but that doesn’t mean that you’re alone in this struggle. In fact, about one in eight couples struggle to get pregnant and over 40% of those couples have experienced male factor infertility in some form.
It’s not always easy to keep the stress of trying to conceive from spilling over into other parts of your life. Your friends and coworkers might have already noticed a change in your mood. Though it can be tempting to brush off these questions with an excuse about having a bad day or not getting enough sleep, the stress of keeping your infertility a secret can be far more harmful than the anxiety associated with sharing your experiences. When you decide to talk about what you’re going through, you gain the freedom to stop pretending nothing is wrong. Discussing male fertility with your friends can help them understand what kind of support and encouragement you need the most. Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk with your friends about male infertility.
Talk to Your Partner About Your Struggle With Infertility as a Man
The journey to conception is a deeply personal shared experience, and you should be able to talk to your partner openly about male factor infertility. While struggling to become pregnant can add stress to even the strongest of relationships, the experience can actually bring some couples closer together. According to a 2005 study, men who communicated openly about infertility with their partners were more likely to report that the struggle to conceive had strengthened their relationship.
Keep the lines of communication open by using “I” statements, or speaking in terms of what you think and feel as opposed to trying to verbalize what your partner is experiencing. Both you and your partner benefit when you don’t have to make guesses about each other’s needs. Also, doing can sometimes be just as important as talking. While it can be tempting to put your life on hold while trying to conceive, your relationship can benefit greatly from going out and creating new memories with your partner. Set aside time that’s not about getting pregnant and just enjoy each other’s company. You’ll be glad you did.
Talking About Male Factor Infertility Outside of Your Relationship
It’s natural to want to keep certain things within the confines of your relationship, but a shared secret this big can sometimes cause additional stress between couples. Sharing your struggles with friends, or even a therapist that specializes in infertility, can provide emotional relief for both you and your partner. Just make sure that you’re both on the same page about how much or how little you’re ready to share.
Sometimes it can be easier to share things with strangers than with your friends. This is especially true when talking about stigmatized topics, like male infertility. Many men benefit from speaking in an infertility support group, either in person or online. Support groups can give you the chance to hear how other men talk about their struggles with infertility. Also, it can be helpful to practice sharing your experiences with people that already understand what you’re going through.
Decide How Much Information You’ll Share About Your Infertility
Before you start talking about male factor infertility with your friends, it’s a good idea to decide how much of your personal experience you’re ready to talk about. The level of detail that you want to share will probably be different with different people. You might simply tell your coworkers that you're trying to conceive and it's taking longer than you expected, while you might feel comfortable giving close friends and family members more information about specific fertility treatments and obstacles.
Bring up the Male Factor Infertility Conversation With Your Pals
Talking with your friends about male infertility doesn’t have to be a big deal. An opening to start the conversation may come in the form of a question such as “You seem down lately. Is everything okay?” or “Why aren’t you coming to Jason’s first birthday party?” Or, it may be more a more outright, “When are you guys going to start having kids?”
When you hear questions like these, sometimes all you need to say is that you and your partner are trying to get pregnant and it’s taking longer than you expected. If you’re talking with a close friend the conversation may go deeper. If you’re having trouble finding an opening to ask your friends for some support, don’t be afraid to bring it up. Start by saying that you’ve been going through something lately and you could use their support. You’ll have their full attention and your friends will be interested in learning how they can be there for you.
Answering Questions From Friends About Your Struggle to Get Pregnant
After you decide to tell people that you’re trying to conceive, you'll probably start getting a lot of questions. While it might feel like the third degree, your friends are only interested because they genuinely care about what you’re going through. If you don’t like being put on the spot, it can help to get some answers ready ahead of time. Doing some infertility research of your own is always a good idea.
Even after reading up on male factor infertility, you still might not have all the answers to your friends’ questions. That’s okay. You can always point your friends to the Stork blog’s multitude of resources aimed at educating people about the issues surrounding male fertility.
Setting Boundaries With Friends About Your Infertility
If your friends have never struggled with infertility, they might not realize how serious of a problem it can be. They might make offhand remarks about how “it’ll happen when you stop worrying about it so much,” or they might wonder aloud why you don’t “just adopt.” They might also start talking about how they conceived or making suggestions about treatments they think you should try. While these statements aren’t meant to be hurtful, they can be damaging to someone who is trying to conceive. Here are a couple examples of how to kindly but firmly draw the line when the conversation starts to approach topics you’d rather not discuss.
“This is hard for me to talk about. I’d rather not go into too much detail.”
“I know you’re only asking because you care, but I’m not quite ready to get into specifics.”
“One thing I’ve learned while going through this is how different everybody’s situation is. Our doctor has a specific plan for us and we’re trusting their approach.”
The most important thing to remember when you decide to start talking about male fertility is that you don't owe anybody any more information than you’re willing to give out. Also, it’s okay to make sure your friends know that you’d prefer for them not to share your experiences with anybody else. Try saying something like "I'm telling you about my infertility issues in confidence, I'd appreciate it if you kept it between us."
Ask Your Friends for Support While You Try to Conceive with Male Factor Infertility
Your friends may not be able to truly understand what you’re going through, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be a source of support for you through this journey. Let your friends know how you hope that they react to the news — whether you welcome questions and phone calls or you’d rather not talk about it again unless you bring it up. Give them specific ways that they can be there for you, such as avoiding certain topics around you or not pressuring you for details after you decline invitations.
It’s important to remember that infertility is a medical condition that has nothing to do with who you are as a man or as a partner. Talking to your guy friends about male factor infertility can save you from having to stumble through another excuse as to why you can’t go out to the bar with everyone after work, or pretending not to have time to look through yet another phone album of baby pictures. Starting the conversation about infertility might not be easy, but it’s the only way that your friends will be able to give you the support and encouragement that you need.
Different people enjoy different degrees of privacy in their lives, and there is no one correct way to talk about infertility. Sharing all of the details of this intimate journey might sound like an absolute nightmare to some, but others might see it as a cathartic release. It’s important to find a balance that works for you. Once you do, you can let your friends know that you’ve been struggling, ask them to give you the support that you need, and trust that everything will work out in the end.