Does Infertility Affect the Feelings of Men and Women Differently?

The cause of infertility is shared equally by both sexes. 30% is male-factor infertility and 30% is female-factor infertility. (The other 40% of cases are caused by a combination of both male and female factors and classified as “unexplained” infertility when tests fail to identify a cause.

Both men and women can be affected by infertility in the following ways:

  • mentally

  • physically

  • emotionally

  • sexually

  • spiritually

  • financially

Here are some of the ways that Men feel when dealing with infertility:

Men may feel a wide range of emotions, including anger, sadness, confusion, anxiety, humiliation, guilt, embarrassment and shame. Such experiences may be due to feeling one or, indeed, many of the following:

  • saddened by the loss of their ability to provide for their family- “ I've let my wife down”, “I feel less of a man”

  • unable to protect their partner & their couple relationship from pain & intense emotions due to the roller coaster of infertility treatment and interventions and ongoing feelings of grief and loss

  • full of self doubt with the potential loss of manhood. Questions self- “who am I?”- “what is a man?”

  • sexually inadequate

  • a loss of identity – may feel he does not meet cultural, spiritual, family and community expectations of himself

  • sadness due to the loss of personal dreams and expectations to be a dad

  • left out of the loop – as the focus of treatment is mostly on their wife/partner

  • isolated – friends & family are getting on with it and having their own children

  • powerless with a lack of control – “nothing I do seems to help”

  • misunderstood – by partner, family, friends, work mates

  • lonely- no-one to talk to who really understands and is without judgement

  • fearful- “I want a child but am afraid it might not happen” “what sort of father will I be if I ever get there?” (credit)

Women feel a wide range of emotions as well and often in a very similar manner to men. One of the biggest complaints from women is the “Frequency Bias” phenomenon where once a woman is trying to conceive there is a heightened awareness of successful pregnancy almost constantly. Along with this, women tend to deal with the following:

  • feeling that they are not good enough for their husband and may lose him because they can not provide him a family.

  • insecure and embarrassed for not being a “real” women who gets pregnant and gives birth as nature intended

  • sexually inadequate or a loss of desire

  • a loss of identity – may feel he does not meet cultural, spiritual, family and community expectations of herself

  • depression due to many factors related to infertility

  • left out of the loop – as the focus of treatment is mostly on their wife/partner

  • jealous – when you see friends & family getting pregnant and having their own children

  • embarrassed - It makes it painful and difficult to go to family gatherings and friendly functions because when the topic of pregnancy and kids comes up, others may feel uncomfortable or feel sorry for you and then it places the spotlight on your infertility.

  • powerless with a lack of control – not getting pregnant or having a miscarriage can leave a woman feeling powerless and depleted

  • misunderstood – by partner, family, friends, etc. Sometimes you can even feel misunderstood by yourself or your doctors when you are trying to identify the causes of your infertility.

  • isolated - often times your relationship becomes strained. When both partners are stuck in their own feelings and unable to be emotionally strong for the other one it can feel isolating and lonely. When there is no one close to the woman who is familiar with infertility, there is no one to reach out to who will understand.

There are more than just a handful of feeling and emotions that go along with infertility and every person has their own set of circumstances that they deal with. One thing is for certain though, both men and women are affected by infertility in many of the same ways and each have their own different nuances in dealing with the emotions. It is a difficult task to try and be there for your partner when you are caught up in your own grief, doubt and pain. Sometimes joining support groups and seeking therapy can help both men and women be more understanding of each other in these stressful times. It can help you become closer as a team rather than feel isolated and misunderstood.

This article from Very Well Family will give you more information about Coping with the Emotional Stress of Infertility.

Michael Hickey