Coping With Male Factor Infertility – A Wife’s Perspective


A wife and mother shares how she and her husband coped with male factor infertility. If you’re struggling with male infertility, this interview with Kelly Damron will help you see your marriage – and yourself more – clearly.

male factor infertility“When Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer, no one made jokes about how he was less of man because he had cancer of his privates,” says Kelly, who wrote Tiny Toes: A Couple’s Journey Through Infertility, Prematurity, and Depression. “The same should apply to a man diagnosed with infertility.”

“Not having swimmers” or “shooting blanks” isn’t a reflection on a man’s masculinity – though it does feel that way to some men. But, not every man lets male infertility get him down – like Kelly Damron’s husband!

Here, Kelly shares her journey with her husband through the ups and downs of male infertility.

Coping With Male Factor Infertility – A Wife’s Perspective

One reason my husband wasn’t too upset about not having adequate semen is because he is a very confident person. And, he didn’t equate his “swimmers” with his manhood. He recognized that his male factor infertility was associated with a physical condition, probably genetic. Sperm didn’t have anything to do with his manliness.

I didn’t see him differently because of his poor semen results. However, it did change my perception of the purpose of sex during that time in our lives. Part of my thought process was, “why bother” when we knew there is no way we would ever get pregnant. I lost interest in sex for a short period of time, but I think it was less associated with my new opinions of my husband and more associated with the total disappointment, and slight case of depression, of not being able to conceive a child through spontaneous love-making.

If you are looking for a solution for male factor infertility, read How to Solve Male Fertility Problems, Such as Low Sperm Count.

The hardest part about coping with male factor infertility was the disconnect between my husband and me about the diagnosis of infertility. All I wanted was to be a mom. I was willing to pursue any medical treatments at whatever cost; my husband was hesitant to try fertility treatments. He didn’t understand why we had to “pay” to have a child when everyone else was able to get pregnant and build their families for free. In addition, he was afraid the fertility treatments might not work. He didn’t know what that would mean to our marriage, if we didn’t end up with a child.

We fought a lot because I wanted to add a child to our family and he wanted to live a childfree life. Once he made up his mind that he wasn’t meant to be a father, which was a determination he made after receiving his infertility diagnosis, he didn’t really understand why I didn’t just give up the desire for a child too. I broached the subject of adoption, but he wouldn’t consider it. I started to resent him for taking away my dream of being a mom.

We contemplated divorce because we couldn’t find a middle ground. My husband didn’t agree to consider fertility treatments until I told him that he needed to decide between getting a divorce or attempting to become parents through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

If you’re considering in vitro fertilization, read Should You Try IVF to Get Pregnant?



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Our best option for infertility treatment because of my husband’s sperm semen was IVF with intrauterine insemination (ICSI). We didn’t do any lower cost treatments because there was no point. His sperm count and quality was too low for artificial insemination, so we didn’t get to ease into the advanced medical procedures. We jumped right in.

We became pregnant during our first cycle with twins! At the time we didn’t realize how risky twin pregnancies are, but we learned that the hard way. Thankfully, our girls are doing well today!

Many people who are not in the midst of infertility are surprised to learn that male factor infertility accounts for about 35% of all cases. Many people equate infertility with being a woman’s issue. Even though it is the woman who has to undergo the medical procedures, it’s not always the woman who has the fertility problem.

Wife’s Perspective Coping With Male Factor Infertility

Coping With Male Factor Infertility – A Wife’s Perspective

In general, men expect their equipment to work properly, but sperm production is very sensitive. Usually there is a physical condition associated with male factor infertility; therefore, it is properly categorized as a disease. For more information on male factor infertility, read What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm.

With a medical crisis, such as infertility, even a good marriage can be tested. The key is communication and honoring the other partner’s feelings. My husband and I did a lot of assuming. I assumed he was willing to move forward with treatments. He assumed the cost of treatments would scare me away (I tend to be frugal). Also, since someone was telling him he wasn’t meant to be a father, he accepted that we would live childfree life. Neither of us can pinpoint where our communication breakdown occurred and we were both surprised by the challenges it created in our relationship. If a good marriage can survive infertility it will even stronger when your journey ends!

If you aren’t sure you’re coping with male factor infertility, read 5 Signs You Should See a Fertility Doctor.

I welcome your thoughts on coping with male factor infertility below.

Kelly Damron was blessed to become a mother of twin daughters after her struggle with infertility. Although lucky to become pregnant through Assisted Reproductive Technologies, her twin girls were born ten weeks prematurely and spent seven weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Since then, she has dedicated her life to helping other women and couples manage the emotional stress of infertility and premature birth. Visit her at TwinPeas.com.


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12 thoughts on “Coping With Male Factor Infertility – A Wife’s Perspective

  • Laurie Post author

    It really is difficult for men to cope with male factor infertility – and not having any sperm is particularly hard! My husband was diagnosed with azoospermia about two years after we started trying to get pregnant, and he was in shock for several months. It wasn’t easy for him, but now he’s accepted it. And, he can talk about it without feeling bad, ashamed, or embarrassed.

    I think the worst part was (and still is) hearing jokes about sperm being a measure of a man’s masculinity. There are alot of guys in TV shows who talk about how “shooting blanks” means a man is less masculine. That was difficult, because it made both me and my husband feel like male infertility was something easy to shrug off and joke about.

    Give your husband time to cope with his diagnosis. It’s shocking and emotional, especially for men who tried not to get women pregnant in the past! I remember my husband saying, “All those wasted condoms…” 🙂

    Counseling can be a great way to help men cope with male factor infertility – especially with a male counselor or therapist. It may be too soon to think about, but perhaps in the future if your husband isn’t coping well, it may be an idea to consider.

    Wishing you all the best as you move forward! May you find the right fertility specialist, and make peace with this direction in your life.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • EMarie

    Hello,

    I know this post about male factor infertility is old but I came across it while researching some help forums. I am 30 years old and my husband and I have been trying for 1 year. We just found out he has no sperm count. We are meeting with a specialist in a month to see if it is repairable or what our next steps are. My husband doesn’t want me talking to anyone until we have this meeting which has been really tough on me.. I need support. I feel with the below comments about your dreams feeling shattered. I will do anything to have a family and have wanted it for quite some time. People all around me are getting pregnant and I never thought I would be looking at such a long and expensive road ahead to have the family I have always dreamed off.

    Thank you for listening, just good to even get something down on paper.

    • Sandy

      We’ve been dealing with male infertility for 6 years. My husband had outpatient surgery to correct an issue but each man heals differently from the next and it ultimately didn’t work. We could do IVF ICSI but I must lose 40 lbs for the anastesiologist to put me under as IVF is considered elective surgery. I’ve known this for 3 years and STILL haven’t lost the weight but we also don’t have the $$. The struggle is REAL!!! Why can’t I lock in to lose the weight? Why can’t we afford it? It drives me crazy!!

  • Mary

    Hi I am new to this web sight. My husband has being diagnosed with no sperm count after after two years of trying. We are so lucky to have a son who is two and a half. We tried for another baby but nothing was happening so we went to a fertility specialist, to find out my husband had no sperm count, he did not have any Health issues other than taking steroids after our son was born for bad chest infection. I have gone through a lot in my life and now this as well. I just don’t know what’s yo turn with out crying. My husband is dealing with this a lot better than me. We are waiting to see our consultant next month as he is taking clomid to help his problem. It will b five months since he started taking them. Is there anyone else it this mess too. Just can’t understand how his sperm had stopped producing.

  • Sonya

    Thank you for this post. We found out a week ago, after many years of trying, that my husband can’t have children the natural way due to a 99% morphology issue. We had tried changing diet and lifestyle and exercise for over 6 months with no change. He’s easygoing about it and problem solver-type attitude (like most guys). But I’m devistated. It’s frustrating too to know that you can have kids at any time, but now suddenly that’s taken away from you by a factor you can’t control. I’m feeling very depressed about this, like you felt. I have started looking at fertility clinics outside of Canada, U.S.and South America, which are better options but so expensive. I worry ever day that this will never happen and it makes it hard to focus on work and life. Thank you for sharing your story, helps me feel a little less alone.

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Kelly,

    Thank you for being here, and having the courage to share your experience with your husband’s infertility. It sounds difficult and painful for both of you, especially when you feel alone in your grief. Infertility is so hard to cope with as a couple because it affects us differently.

    You’re not alone, even though you feel like you’re coping with it by yourself! It’s important for you to find other women who are experiencing male infertility, and connect with them in person. Is there an infertility support group in your area? Even if you met one other woman who is dealing with infertility, it might help you feel connected and not so alone.

    I also encourage you to think about your perspective. Yes, it’s a shock that your husband has fertility issues. But does this mean your dreams are shattered? It’s a roadblock, for sure…but once you get over the shock, you may find your life opening up in ways you never thought possible.

    Keep the faith, my friend. Take it one step at a time – and try to find support for women coping with infertility in your community, so you can connect in person. I’ll keep you in my prayers, for strength and hope and connection with your husband.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • Kelly

    Hi Laurie, I know this post is super old, but I´m thankful I got to read your story, as it makes me really happy that after what you have been through, your IVF worked and now you are a mother of twins. 🙂
    My husband has been diagnosed with male factor, due to a testosterone booster he consumed years ago..now he is taking clomid and I´m hopeful that everything will work out at the end, even with IVF or IUI, at this moment due to his extreme low sperm count, our only option would be IVF (which we can´t pay right now).
    I feel so alone, and I would hope that more women were encouraged to talk about this…as it is really easy to find articles about depression in women with infertility, but you can´t find any regarding women dealing with depression because of male factor.
    I´m finding so difficult to be able to deal with this…not only because my dreams have shattered out of the blue, but because I have to deal with my husband´s cockiness because he feels “less manly”. So everybody will tell you…ohh he is the victim, you really need to be supportive…great! I´m trying..but who supports me??? I hope you understand where I´m coming from, any word would be appreciated.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thanks for your thoughts on coping with male factor infertility. I don’t know if it’s “worse” to be dealing with female vs. male infertility problems — both are heartbreaking health issues.

  • Wallace

    I think it is worth pointing out that many men can and do improve their sperm count and quality by making the correct lifestyle, diet and health changes. However most men are not prepared to make those changes, I did and it worked for me.

  • Laurie PK

    Daily intercourse (or ejaculating daily) for seven days improves men’s sperm quality by reducing the amount of DNA damage, according to an Australian study presented June 30 to the 25th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Amsterdam.

    Until now there has been no evidence-based consensus amongst fertility specialists as to whether or not men should refrain from physical intimacy for a few days before attempting to conceive with their partner, either spontaneously or via assisted reproduction.

    Dr David Greening, an obstetrician and gynaecologist with sub specialist training in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Sydney IVF, Wollongong, Australia, said: “All that we knew was that intercourse on the day of ovulation offered the highest chance of pregnancy, but we did not know what was the best advice for the period leading up to ovulation or egg retrieval for IVF.

    “In addition, we found that although frequent ejaculation decreased semen volume and sperm concentrations, it did not compromise sperm motility and, in fact, this rose slightly but significantly.

    “Further research is required to see whether the improvement in these men’s sperm quality translates into better pregnancy rates, but other, previous studies have shown the relationship between sperm DNA damage and pregnancy rates.

    “The optimal number of days of ejaculation might be more or less than seven days, but a week appears manageable and favourable. It seems safe to conclude that couples with relatively normal semen parameters should have physical intimacy daily for up to a week before the ovulation date. In the context of assisted reproduction, this simple treatment may assist in improving sperm quality and ultimately achieving a pregnancy. In addition, these results may mean that men play a greater role in infertility than previously suspected, and that ejaculatory frequency is important for improving sperm quality, especially as men age and during assisted reproduction cycles.”

    Dr Greening said he thought the reason why sperm quality improved with frequent ejaculation was because the sperm had a shorter exposure in the testicular ducts and epididymis to reactive oxygen species – very small molecules, high levels of which can damage cells. “The remainder of the men who had an increase in DFI might have a different explanation for their sperm DNA damage,” he concluded.

    Source: ScienceDaily. (July 1, 2009). “Daily Sex Helps Reduce Sperm DNA Damage and Improve Fertility.”