We all know that men are socialized to be tough guys. For the most part, they are less emotionally volatile than women — especially those shot up with extra hormones. A recently released study, however, caught my eye. It showed that men suffer psychologically, too, as they come to terms with infertility. Some 256 men from the Copenhagen Multi-Centre Psychosocial Aspects of Infertility (COMPI) research program were divided into four categories: unexplained infertility; female infertility; male infertility; or mixed and then assessed.
We’re led to believe that men are most affected by infertility only if they are a primary contributor to repeated failures on the baby-making front. The results, though, found that men in all four groups suffered equally.
The study also highlights something we in the infertility blogosphere have already figured out — that we collectively derive great comfort when we get support from those around us. The punchline here is thatwe don’t always get it when we need it from those closest to us.
“Infertile people appear to rely particularly on their social environment for support, and this seems to deteriorate over time.”
Furthermore, the study points out that support provided later in the infertility process often does more good for a set of reasons noted here (note: the translation to English is a bit stilted, but the point is clear):
“Couples should be made aware of the possible decline in their social support network and encouraged to organise support systems [beyond] close friends and family. Counseling in the early stages of infertility is not often a desirable option for couples, and especially for men, say the scientists. Couples … might be directed to online support services, and given the chance to speak to other couples with fertility problems...but psychosocial counseling may be beneficial and more readily accepted in the later stages of treatment, when social networks are at their weakest, and also after repeated treatment failure.”
So there you have it. Some hard evidence that infertility has a way of making even the most stoic feel the onerous weight of the condition, and that (unfortunately) it doesn’t get any easier as we make our way along, especially as support wanes. All the more reason to embrace each other. Give yourselves a big hug and a round of applause for the continued kindness and empathy you show to the infertility community. It’s hugely appreciated. Now I’m off to hug my guy. He’s just returned home from a work trip that followed a long demanding project. So very glad to have him back — body and soul.