Fertility problems affect men too

I heard a man talking about his wife’s fertility problems on the radio the other day. He said he didn’t think men felt the same way about having children as women did – and made it sound as if not being able to start a family would not be any kind of issue for a man.  It made me rather sad as he said it with such confidence – and yet that’s so far from the experience of most men I talk to who are going through fertility tests and treatments.

Fertility problems are women’s issues

All too often, fertility is seen as a woman’s problem, and we’ve seen that a lot recently with all the debate about women “leaving it too late” and needing to have children earlier – but it’s important to remember, especially today on Father’s Day, that men suffer just as much as women do when they can’t have children. In fact, there’s some research from Keele University’s Robin Hadley which suggests that men are just as broody as women, and that involuntary childlessness is more likely to make men feel depressed and angry than women.

Sometimes men do feel the need to disguise their feelings, especially if they think they need to be strong for their partner, but unlike the man I was listening to, I think most men do find fertility problems difficult – and today would be a good day to do something nice for your partner if you’re trying to conceive.

Another egg freezing story

So, here’s another woman telling her egg freezing story publicly. This one, Joanna Krupa,  is apparently a celebrity (I’ve never heard of her, but I must admit that I’m not that up on celebrities!). She tells us that she’s been hearing egg freezing is currently “trendy” and is her “security blanket”. As she’s married, I’m not quite sure why she’s freezing eggs rather than embryos – perhaps that’s not as “trendy”…

What’s really worrying about stories like this is that women seem to have been sold the idea that freezing eggs is some kind of protection against future fertility problems, but having a stock of eggs doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything – they may not fertilise or implant.  There’s nothing wrong with egg freezing in itself, as long as women go into it understanding the limitations. The worry is that many will be disappointed in the future when they realise that the money they’ve spent can’t ensure that they will be able to delay having a family until they feel the time is right.

What should you give up – or take up – to get pregnant?

images-12Yet more new advice about what to do to improve your fertility… We know that too much caffeine isn’t good for us, but should you give it up entirely if you are trying to have a baby? It’s often women who try to cut back but a new study from the States suggests that male caffeine consumption has an impact on the chances of IVF success – those who drank more coffee (and what constitutes more I’ve seen described as three cups in one place and one mug in another!) were only half as likely to have a positive outcome. Perhaps slightly unexpectedly, when it came to alcohol, drinking seemed to improve rather than reduce the chances of success for men. The study results suggest that men who drink around three units are more likely to have a successful outcome than those who don’t drink at all. Meanwhile, another group of researchers looking at diet and male fertility found that being vegan or vegetarian was linked with lower sperm counts.

So, yet more advice – yet more to do, or not to do. What makes it difficult is that it can seem that the advice changes from week to week – and is often contradictory. At the end of the day, perhaps it’s best to think along the lines of moderation in all things…


What not to say to someone who is having difficulty getting pregnant

Thanks to author Tracey Buchanan for her article in The Telegraph on what not to say to people who can’t get pregnant – the more other people understand that telling us we can “always adopt” or that we’d get pregnant if we went on holiday isn’t a great idea, the better.

I was particularly horrified by the fact that the suggestion that fertility problems were “God’s way” came from an NHS consultant – whoever it was shouldn’t be let loose in a fertility clinic ever again…

I was interested in Tracey’s take on pregnancies though as she says her happiness for others outweighed her own feelings of sadness. I think she’s actually quite unusual on this one.  Of course, most of us would hate not to be told about pregnancies – there’s nothing worse than suspecting that someone is pregnant and is putting off telling you because they know you’re struggling to conceive – but at the same time I don’t really think my feelings of joy for friends who were pregnant ever did outweigh my sadness. People looking at me with pity when they made pregnancy announcements didn’t just “sting a little” – I absolutely hated it and I’d often go home and cry with anger and frustration as well as sadness. They may not be pleasant emotions, but I know I’m far from alone in feeling that way.


Going back to the article though, I like the fact that Tracey has given the Telegraph’s readers some suggestions of more helpful alternatives to what they might say to friends with fertility problems.  Most of the time people are trying to be kind, even if it doesn’t feel that way, and it’s always useful to have some direction when you want to be helpful but aren’t quite sure what best to say…