Male infertility vs. Female infertility

infertility
Different genders experience infertility differently often causing tension between partners

[1]  

Have you ever thought about infertility in relation to societal standards? Both men and women have an equal chance of being infertile, but in 2004 it was found that in 60% of cases, the women was the sole contributing cause[2]. This adds extra pressure on the female and can create more strain in the relationship. Back in the late 80’s infertility was attributed to the female psych, making her bare the burden of the diagnosis alone[3]. Most likely this was due to the dominant patriarchal prominence in the field at the time. We now know that men are just as likely as women to be infertile. With increased knowledge and more technology the need to treat infertility is very common among couples. However, the way in which a man and a woman experience infertility and infertility treatments, is very different.

Men are often times humiliated for the inability to conceive, they keep to themselves and rarely show their emotions on the matter.  A study found that men are likely to be less distressed about infertility than females[4]. The truth is men are often very quiet when it comes to their emotions, though they may not project their distress it is still most likely experienced[5]. To measure whose distress is worse is a difficult task, especially when males are less likely to speak up about their emotions and experiences[6].

The way in which a female partner deals with the infertility of her counterpart is much different than how a man deals with his wife or girlfriends infertility. While women are often times more likely to support and stand by a man when he is the cause of the infertility, men are likely to be less supportive to females when they are the ones who are infertile[7]. The way in which a man shows his emotions has a lot to do with the way he was brought up. Many men are brought up believing that a tough attitude will get results[8].Whereas women are more likely to show emotion and compassion in a situation such as this[9].They are taught to be motherly and compassionate, which effects the way in which they deal with situations such as this[10].

Infertile men are often criticized and insulted, they are considered impotent, effeminate and weak in a society that places such a high standard on manhood, often linked to sperm[11]. Biological textbooks and anatomy often show the sperm as being “strong” and “dominant,” when a female gets pregnant we often associate it with the success of the sperm[12]. So when a man is incapable of impregnating his wife, he and his sperm are associated within being “weak,” incapable of carrying sperm who can “dominate” the egg. In societies, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, men are subject to an immense amount of ridicule.

Men can be ostracized and left out of functions for their inability to fulfill their duty as a “man”[13]. In some cases it was found that men were even fired from their work because they did not deserve a “man’s” job[14]. Rouchou’s cross-cultural analysis of developing countries found that in many of these areas, though the men were greatly left out of community functions, it was the females who experienced the most hate.

Men have been noted to have abused their wives for the inability to produce a child[15]. This is an example of the importance of fertility in these societies. Not only is physical abuse experienced, mental and emotional abuse is also projected onto women who are unable to conceive[16]. In societies where marrying more than one wife is allowed, men will often do so if their wife does not give them a child within a certain period of time[17]. It is also prominent that in communities which practice rituals, infertile women are not allowed to take part in these because rituals are often associated with fertility prayers[18].

All of these factors and experiences contribute to the negative mental and physical exhaustion that come with infertility. In cultures that value fertility so highly, more stigma is attached to being infertile, placing even more stress on the individuals living in that society. The consequences that men and women experience is often attributed to the surrounding culture and belief system that exists.

How would you react if you were diagnosed with infertility?

Do you think our views surrounding the importance of having children will shift? or have they already?

Can you see differences/similarities between infertility in sub-Sahran Africa and North America? 


 

A women speaking about her experiences after the diagnosis of infertility…

References

[1] “Worried about Infertility? Get Your Self Checked for Some Obscure Disease.” Esbtrib.com. 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

[2] Miles, Laura M., et al. “Predictors of distress in women being treated for infertility.” Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 27.3 (2009): 238-257.

[3] Miles, Laura M., et al. “Predictors of distress in women being treated for infertility.” Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 27.3 (2009): 238-257.

[4] Darsney, Christine. “The Stigma of Infertility: An Analysis of the Psychological Correlates of Infertility as a Felt Stigma.” (1996)

[5] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[6] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[7] Miles, Laura M., et al. “Predictors of distress in women being treated for infertility.” Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 27.3 (2009): 238-257.

[8] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[9] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[10] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[11] Deveraux, Lara. “Infertility and Identity: New Strategies for Treatment.” (1998). Print.

[12] Martin, Emily. “The Egg And The Sperm: How Science Has Constructed A Romance Based On Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society: 485. Print.

[13] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives in Public Health: 174-79. Print.

[14] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives in Public Health: 174-79. Print.

[15] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives in Public Health: 174-79. Print.

[16] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives in Public Health: 174-79. Print.

[17] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives in Public Health: 174-79. Print.

[18] Rouchou, B. “Consequences of Infertility in Developing Countries.” Perspectives.

23 thoughts on “Male infertility vs. Female infertility”

  1. I believe that how people treat others who are infertile is wrong, and should not happen. Being infertile is not common around the world, so why is it a big deal? That’s why there are things such as the sperm bank. And if a female is infertile, then adoption is always an answer. How people treat others based on their ability to conceive is disgusting.
    Are there seminars that people could go to to learn more about infertility? I understand that in certain cultures it is shameful to not be able to have children, but why is it such a problem in the United States and Canada where we have accepted numerous cultures and religion, but we can’t accept the fact that some people can not reproduce?

    1. Unfortunately, even though we do have things such as IVF and other reproductive procedures they are extremely expensive and have low rates of success. The problem begins when the couple is diagnosed and they lose their sense of purpose in life. No one ever questions their fertility until they begin trying to conceive. The majority of us believe that one day we will have a family and children, it is part our future identity. The difference between the stigma around infertility and those surrounding culture, religion, and race is that the belief that one should have a child is shared by almost all cultures and religions. I agree that the treatment and stigma around infertility is disgusting but with more awareness and communication about the topic we can help bring awareness to those suffering.
      Unfortunately i don’t have information about any seminars but you can find a lot of information about the topic online.

  2. its a great article but i do have to say one thing though, you say males are known for abusing there wives. Well that’s really not true. Men nowadays are more like a girl then you think, as a male personally i would never hit a woman and i’m not afraid to admit it but i do act like a girl 70% of the time. Men are more docile nowadays while the woman is more independent. You should do some research on woman abusing men.

    1. I’m sorry, if it seemed like i was generalizing. What i meant was specifically in sub-Saharan Africa based on cases in articles that I’ve read men have been noted to abuse their wives on the basis that she did not fulfill her role of bringing him a child. I also, disagree with your comment on men not abusing women, though i was referring to Africa, in Canada physical and emotional abuse is still very prevalent between men and women. This is not an issue we should think has been solved and is something we as a community should continue to be aware of.

      1. im not saying all men are docile only some are however in Canada if a man is abusing a woman most woman will speak up and get it resolved. Just try not to generalize so much and thank you, your article is less generalized now 🙂

    2. Sorry Ron, can you clarify what you mean in this comment? The idea that men are ” more like a girl then you think” is irrelevant to the subject of abuse. Even in western countries, abuse in relationships is widespread, and how stereo typically feminine someone is is irrelevant. While women do abuse men in relationships, according to statistics Canada, Over 8 in 10 victims of violence in dating relationships were female. sorry, if this does not exactly relate to the article, just confused about what Ron is trying to say.

  3. Very unique and interesting blog! Very informational. I would recommend adding a “hook” to the beginning of your paragraph, perhaps ask questions like “how does infertility affect men and women’s life everyday life?” or “how do other countries treat infertility?”. You could even include more questions to ask the reader at the end of your blog too, to really get people voicing their opinion! Just food for thought 🙂

  4. I really like your post and how informative it is and how its not really opinion based.One question to you would be why is it so shameful to be infertile. If i was infertile i would be very upset but not so much as ashamed, and i would definitely not want others to think of me as a bad person for being infertile.

    1. It’s considered shameful because there is such importance placed on fertility, from a young age girls are bought little dolls to take care of in order to prepare them for their future in motherhood, little boys are taught to fix things and bear he responsibility of taking care of a family. This is an example of how highly valued being a parent is in Canada. The shame that comes with infertility is associated with the expectation that everyone has for you to have a child.

  5. Hey, this is a great post! It is a unique topic that some people might not feel comfortable talking about, but it is something that should be discussed more. The fact that people are suffering in silence is sad. People are discriminated against for a variety of reasons and this is one of them. I feel like being infertile can be depressing and things, but it doesn’t make a person any less capable of doing their job or something and it is terrible that people have lost their job because of it. Do you feel like people discussing this topic more can help everyone else see that being infertile doesn’t make a person less capable of doing everyday things like a fertile person?

    1. I agree with your points. Yes, I do think bringing more awareness to the stigma that comes with infertility will help with the mental health aspects of infertility. I also think bringing more awareness will help society shift the ideology of what roles men and women should take on.

      1. I remember doing a report about gender roles and how they are changing, do you think this topic could possibly make people specifically men, feel worse about infertility, since now they are expected to take on some of the roles that are traditionally for women?

      2. That’s a really interesting point I’ve never thought about it that way. I don’t think that infertility would be affected by changing gender roles, not for the moment at least. Men are still not as badly scrutinized for not having children as women are, I think a lot of the changing gender roles come after a family has a child. Generally,the man will stay at home with the children and take on some of the responsibilities around the house, but it doesn’t seem to happen when it’s just a couple without children. Of course i’m no expert and it’s just my opinion.

  6. Your post is well written and your topic is well chosen. Some facts were surprising to me since I don’t really think about infertility that much. I think you brought our attention to a really important topic.
    As for your first question, I wouldn’t really overreact. Of course I would be sad, maybe even depressed for a while, but then I would seek a treatment. If none of the treatments appeal to me, I would just accept what I have and move on with my life.

  7. Great post Aisha, this was very informative!

    How would you react if you were diagnosed with infertility?
    If I were diagnosed with infertility, I would be disappointed. This is because the inability or to have trouble having kids is a serious problem that can not only affect the man negatively, but the woman too.

    Do you think our views surrounding the importance of having children will shift? or have they already?
    In many cultures, having children is extremely important. It is true that people are having less kids in some countries because they’re more career driven and focused. However, a lot of people have the mindset that in order to have a good life, they should have a family, and some are even pressured by their parents and other family members.

    Can you see differences/similarities between infertility in sub-Saharan Africa and North America?
    Yes, I can see the similarities and differences. In sub-Saharan Africa it is much more of a problem and you’re ridiculed by others. In North America there are more advancements in technology and medicine and there are some ways to solve the issue/research can be done in order to find a cure. Nonetheless, being infertile can really bring down the spirits of a man because they might feel week or hopeless.

    On a final note, even if men do hide their feelings, being infertile surely negatively impacts them as a human being and they will possibly become less confident in themselves.

    1. I agree with many of your points, especially the fact that career driven people are changing the way North American society views having children. We went from a society were 4+ children was the norm, to having 2 or less as being the norm today.

  8. If I was diagnosed with infertility, I would be very depressed. I would be like this because the fact that I can’t pass on my blood is terrifying. I know that for a lot of people at our age, it wouldn’t mean a thing but in the long run, when I want to settle down and mature, it would mean so much. I would’ve like to seen more pictures and statistics in this post. Good job Aisha!

    1. Thank you for your reply and input. It’s been said that our evolutionary past still pushes us to make decisions today, though we may not be conscious of it. Scientists have said that we as humans have an instinct to want children in order to pass down our genes and continue our ancestral line. I think this is true to a certain extent and most likely why not having children is a problem in society.

  9. Really great post Aisha, the topic you chose is very interesting one. To answer your questions, if I was diagnosed with infertility, I do believe this would affect my life in the future. I do want kids when I am older and while right now I wouldn`t be affected, I would be upset when I decide that I want children. I think the view of the importance of having children has already shifted, many couples aren`t having children and don`t plan on it in the future and it`s not a big deal any more. Overall, a well written post.

    1. I agree about the fact that our modern society has shifted the views about having children. With careers being of more importance and people waiting longer in time we may see a complete change in how we look at family. I also agree with the point you made about wanting to have the decision be yours when it comes time to create your own family. For many people who are infertile their sense of choice is taken away since they do not have a choice to have a child.

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