Coming to Terms with Infertility

One of the primal instincts followed by every organism in creation that consists of two or more cells, is the desire to replicate itself by breeding to ensure the survival of the species. This is with the one possible exception of the giant panda which seems determined, if left to its own devices, to evolve itself into extinction. 

However, for every other species, the force to extend the species using ones own genetic code is almost overwhelming, and in humans can sometimes lead to all sorts of trouble. Unfortunately, there are people for whom this is never going to happen, who, for some reason find themselves infertile. This realisation of the fact can be a major blow.

Women

some men and women must come to terms with infertilityFor women of course, the news can be particularly hard. Large parts of the anatomic makeup, psyche and hormonal systems of the woman are devoted to the carrying and nurturing of children.
The realisation that this will go unfulfilled is a major shock that some women may never fully recover from.

Men

Men can react in two ways. One is to enjoy the freedom of never having to worry about a knock on the door in many years time to be greeted with ‘hello daddy’ from the youth on the step. Or they also may endure the anguish of never being able to look forward to experiencing the joy of fatherhood. For men feel the pain, the frustration and dashing of dreams every bit as well. 
A man may not be able to gestate a baby or give birth, but the anticipation of future bath time, reading a story to sleepy offspring at bedtime (and later and better, the offspring reading the story to daddy), playing games and kicking a ball can be every bit as joyful and exciting.

Stats and Causes

There can be many causes of male infertility. Azoospermia, which is where a man’s sperm count is too small to be measured and can be found in 1% of the male population and is behind 20% of male infertility cases, or even aspermia which is the total absence of semen, are two systemic causes.
Erectile dysfunction is another cause which obviously leads to infertility. Other reasons for men not being able to reproduce can stem from smoking which has a direct affect on sperm count and motility, DNA damage and physical problems affecting the testes. Some of these conditions can be treated with more or less chance of success.

Psychological Effects

The effects of infertility, in men and women, can be profound. There can be a feeling of hopelessness, inadequacy and a profound lack of completeness in not being able to produce a child. Where one partner cannot conceive, the other may feel intense guilt and helplessness and the stress and strain placed on their relationship can be immense. It can be hard to admit to others, especially to relatives, that there is a problem. 
Being in the presence of families can be tricky, and resentment at the ease with which some people can conceive is difficult to take.

Alternatives

There are obvious alternatives where the conception of one’s own child is to be impossible. Fostering and adoption are two possibilities at bridging the gap that not having a child can leave. However, applying for the opportunity and actually being granted permission to take in a child conceived by someone else can be as fraught, not to say every bit as traumatic as the attempts at having their own.
The processes through which prospective adopters and foster parents have to endure can be an ordeal that means opening themselves up to authorities in such a way as they wouldn’t have thought possible. It can take years, at the end of which they can still be turned down, the effect of which can be as, if not more, emotionally devastating as the original inability to conceive. 
And of course if they are successful, the availability of a suitable child may not be immediate, since they are hardly commodities to be picked off the shelf. The authorities are, of course, acting in the best interest of any child that may be placed with the couple and steps are being taken to try and make it easier and quicker.
One of the effects of the selection as it stands is that many potentially wonderful adoptive parents are unwilling to put themselves through that and look for other avenues such as foreign adoption.

Councelling

Infertile couples may require the counselling services of relationship guides in order to try to overcome their situation and it can be a long and hard road to take to come out the other side.  Acceptance of the situation is never easy and very often leads to the end of a relationship as the problem is sometimes bigger than the couple can deal with. 
Working together and accepting what cannot be and finding something else to try and fill the gap is possible and worthwhile.

2 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    I have just found out I am infertile at only 25. I have found no support because I am a male everyone thinks I should just shrug it off and move one. Because I am nota female I should not be bothered well I say rubbish. I am distraught that I will never be able to give my child a sibling and feel hopeless and angry. I have had no support off my doctors or family and my employer refused me a few days off to come to terms with what I had been told stating that if I was a woman I could have all the time I need. People are so ignorant and blind when it comes to male fertility. I will never father a child again and am expected to just brush it off !!

    Reply
    • Dr. Jones
      Dr. Jones says:

      Dear Ben, My condolences. I am very sorry to hear about this. Personally I am in a similar position. I am very happy that I have one beautiful daughter. Psychologically, it is very effective to focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. Practise reminding yourself every day and it will help you see the world more positively again. If you need a framework, try guided Mindfulness meditations. Good luck!

      Reply

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