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.
July 12, 2007 3:15 pm
This is so true! Just because they don’t communicate their hurt as “easily” as women seem to do, it doesn’t mean that men do not experience the same emotions. Communication is SO important – without it your relationship will never withstand the assault of Infertility, not to mention the rest of the bad stuff out there.
July 12, 2007 5:16 pm
Tell him that I said hi and that he’s welcome to come back to HSV anytime — and to bring you with him next time he’s here 🙂
July 12, 2007 6:16 pm
Wow! We so often forget how hard it is on our spouses. Here I am mad at mine because he won’t do something that both of us are a little afraid of doing. I should be kinder than I have been being.
Is it me or are the Dutch leading the way in treating infertility?
July 12, 2007 10:19 pm
I should be quite shocked indeed if a man (any of the proper sort) were NOT affected adversely by the situation. I am pleased they have some hard data now to back it up. In an odd way I know that is comforting for them.
July 12, 2007 11:29 pm
Interesting. Thanks for bringing us this. And wow – the social network deteriorates over time? It’s not that it *surprises* me, but I’m relieved to hear it’s a “normal” part of the process.
July 13, 2007 1:25 pm
Very interesting. It’s definitely been our experience that our social support network (in real life) has deteriorated. D. says that people are “bored” with our infertility. I say they probably don’t know what to say after so long.
July 13, 2007 3:41 pm
Ah, this is so true. I wish my husband didn’t hurt from the fertility issues, but I know he does. And it makes me hurt even more when I think about it.
July 13, 2007 5:09 pm
Hi PJ, I have a question for you: Over the past few days, it seems like many of the people who comment on my blog (either brand-new commenters or sorta-new commenters) are pregnant. Either they just found out, or they started their blog while pregnant. It is difficult for me to relate to these people, simply because I did not “know” them before they were pregnant, and they have such a different outlook than I do. Even with the bloggers whom I followed for a while before they got pregnant, the further along they get, the harder it is for me to relate.
My question is, you’re in a different place than all of us. Is it sometimes difficult for you to read the blogs of women still in the midst of IF?