Why aren’t there more medical and mental health treatments for male infertility?

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Credit: Francesco Ciccolella/New York Times

Although men are just as likely as women to have fertility problems, ads for fertility treatment typically feature women holding giggling babies in the air or intimately touching a child’s face. Yet research suggests that reproductive issues have a profound emotional impact on men, too. Across the globe, masculinity is marked, in part, by the ability to have children — a demonstration “that you’re a fertile, virile man,” says Esmée Hanna, a sociologist at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom. In her research on men experiencing infertility, Hanna has documented feelings of loss, anger, frustration, and guilt.

Compared with women, men are less likely to want to talk about their struggles, says Kelly Da Silva, a support coordinator at Care Fertility in the U.K. But men are now starting to speak out, and innovative practitioners are figuring out how to meet their needs. “You have to do it their way,” says California-based urologist Paul Turek. “You have to do it anonymously, quietly, and it has to be valuable for them.”

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Turek believes it is clinicians’ responsibility to reach men as early as possible… If, instead of being an indicator of virility and sexual prowess, fertility can be seen as a sign of wellbeing, he believes it will be much easier to encourage men to get it checked.

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