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Author Topic: Breaking the Silence about male infertility  (Read 4905 times)
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6 • JULY 2012 GUARDIAN - AN INDEPENDENT SUPPLEMENT BY MEDIAPLANET

Breaking the Silence about male infertility

For many men infertility is still a taboo subject. “When a man is diagnosed
with fertility problems it is a tremendous blow, and he is not
likely to want to talk about it. Initially he tends to go into denial,”
says Pip Reilly, the psychotherapist who runs www.mensfe.net,
a website and forum designed to help men research and talk about
infertility issues. Ways of dealing with it Men and women have different
ways of coping. Men usually need to control the situation and take
action to find a solution, perhaps by lone research on the internet.
Women want to understand the situation, which requires communication,
and is the first stage of acceptance. “Couples tend to go off into separate mental corners,
which can affect the communication in the relationship,” says Pip Reilly.
Following denial, men commonly show anger, often in consultations
with clinicians. This is the first coping strategy they use to control of their feelings of loss.
Anger is not ‘wrong’, but a step in the grieving process that can lead to acceptance and understanding.
“Handled correctly by a counsellor anger can be used to take a man forward safely,” says Reilly.
 “Failure to handle anger can ruin relationships. There are no figures for the number of couples
 with fertility problems who eventually split, but I think 15 per cent would be a conservative estimate.”
Following anger, men experience infertility as a loss, and feel shame about not being able to
conceive naturally, and thus putting their partners through diagnosis and treatment. “They will
often do anything to support the woman and only later think about themselves,” says Reilly.
The importance of support NICE guidelines state that clinics should offer counselling to people
with fertility problems but the service is not always satisfactory. While 80 per cent of
women accept counselling, only 20 per cent of men do. “Over 90 per cent of counsellors are
women, and some men feel reluctant to open up to them,” says Reilly.
Clinics and GPs do not always treat men in a sensitive way. Semen test results are sometimes
sent by post, so a man can learn of his infertility with no support at all. Best practice
would see men invited back to the clinic to get results, so they can ask questions and be offered support.
Overall Reilly advises men with infertility problems to get practical information to help them understand
their options — there are several support organisations. “Ask for counselling to help you
cope and try to do all the things you normally do together as a couple,” he says. “Don’t let infertility and its
treatment take over your life.”
■ Question: Why do men seem so reluctant to talk
about infertility?
■ Answer: There’s a host of reasons for male silence — and men often suffer as a result.

Pip Reilly
Fertility counsellor and Psychotherapist
Mensfe.net

LINDA WHITNEY
info.uk@mediaplanet.com
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CONTINUED

David Prever was 39 when he got the telephone call. “We had been
married a year and my wife had decided we should get some tests. I
did not think it necessary because it was so soon. We’d moved house
and changed jobs, and at 39 and 37 it was bound to take a bit longer,”
says Prever, a writer. But he went along for tests and soon after, the
doctor called with the results. “Both our phones were on hands-free
and the sound was bit muffled. I did not quite understand what he said
at first so I asked him to repeat it. He shouted ‘severe impairment.’
“The words seemed to bounce round the room. I’d heard the first
time of course but I couldn’t quite believe what he’d said.” Different
ways of coping Prever and his wife Victoria, a food writer, reacted differently.
While she found other women to talk to, he initially coped alone.
“The male approach is to find out the facts, call for a recount, a replay, or
to blame the referee. I looked for people to blame or even sue. “I put my
head in the sand, worked early and late, told no-one and just got on with brave
male face-style.” They started IVF and Prever felt guilty about putting his wife
through so many medical procedures and angry with the clinics, the drugs
industry and himself. Happy ending After five IVF cycles, the couple
became pregnant and their son was born. His sister was born in 2010 from
an embryo frozen before her brother’s birth. Prever and his wife remembered
the experience so well, they decided to make their story public so others would
know they are not alone. They now run a website www.multiplymagazine.com to
help others in the same situation.
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