Earlier this week, I found myself talking to an audience of mainly middle-aged (and above) men about living with fertility problems and the fabulous work Infertility Network UK carries out to support people who are having trouble conceiving. I wasn’t sure how the talk would go down, but they seemed genuinely interested – although when it came to the questions afterwards they admitted it wasn’t a topic most of them had ever talked about or would know how to talk about. There was a definite element of embarrassment at one point when I started to waffle on about sperm donation!
One of them asked about men and fertility problems and specifically whether I thought men found it difficult not to be able to have children. They were quite surprised when I said I thought that men found it just as hard as women not to be able to have children, but that it was often more difficult for men to talk about it. For most women, talking to close and empathetic friends about fertility problems can be a real source of support but for men, discussing a fertility problem with their friends is just something most don’t do.
I’ve often wondered how best to offer more support to men as the existing support networks women use don’t seem to work for men. In all my years running support groups, I’ve seen dozens of women who’ve come along without their partners, but you don’t get men coming by themselves – although those who are there with their partners can find it really beneficial. Online forums for men don’t get used much either.
I’ve asked men what sort of support they’d like, and usually get a shrug of the shoulders – but I’ve come across a few men recently who are writing about the subject in books and blogs – like Glenn Barden who wrote a guest blog for Fertility Matters a while back. I’ve just been in touch with another guy who has written a new book about fertility problems from the male perspective which I’ll review here once I’ve read it – but in the meantime if anyone has any other useful links or suggestions, do post them below!