Infertility counseling or the lack thereof of the forgotten male partner

Men with infertility represent a significant percentage of the infertile population. Public awareness of this fact is limited in part because literature and other media have neglected the male component.

William D. Petok, Ph.D.

Volume 104, Issue 2, Pages 260-266


Men with infertility represent a significant percentage of the infertile population. However, public awareness of this fact is limited at best. Literature and other media have neglected the male component of reproduction other than its sexual nature. Men’s emotional reactions to a diagnosis of infertility have been studied far less than those of women. However, there is a growing body of research indicating that men do feel the loss associated with a failure to conceive and have unique methods of adapting. At the same time resources available for infertile men are limited or underutilized. Several factors contribute to the underutilization, including narrow awareness, lack of high-visibility individuals willing to speak about the problem, and male avoidance of mental health services. Suggestions for improving this situation are offered.

  • So much of infertility involves counseling the couples and removing blame from both partners. Psychological issues affecting couples with fertility, especially men definitely merits further study.

  • I agree with Dr. Quaas and his observations. My highest cancellation rates are for the male infertility patients who have appointments set up by their concerned partners. But because of the stigma of infertility, or not being able to father children naturally, these men naturally fear coming to their appointments.

    Increased awareness and education of the male partners is crucial. It takes a team to help a couple have a successful pregnancy.

  • This article addresses many issues related to the counseling of male partners during the treatment of infertility. Unfortunately many male partners of infertile couples are still reluctant to be tested, attend appointments, or take part in the process of workup / treatment of infertility. There appears to be a different reaction than in females which may include avoidance, denial and anger. In my experience, it is helpful to point out at the very first consultation that infertility is not the “fault” of either partner, but that it happens to the couple as a unit. This may help couples focus on solutions rather than who is to blame.
    Hopefully this article will contribute to increased awareness and resources for the discussed issue.

    • William Petok

      I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Quaas. It is helpful to point out that blame or fault is not the issue. In some cases we are able to identify what was the primary contributor to a couples failure to conceive. This in no way assigns fault. Since it takes both sperm and ovum to create an embryo it is a “team effort.” Of course, all on the treatment team can help a couple seek solutions to their problem.

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