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Men’s inclination to avoid seeking help for fertility concerns is shaped by gendered attitudes

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New research, released today for World Infertility Awareness Month, has revealed that gendered misconceptions surrounding fertility struggles are preventing men from speaking up about fertility concerns.

A fifth of men think fertility problems are a “female” problem

In a new study carried out by fertility benefits company Apryl, almost a fifth (18%) of men surveyed said that they thought women were most likely to experience fertility issues, whilst 22% “weren’t sure” whether fertility problems impacted men or women the most. 

Fertility issues impact men and women equally. However, this fact was only known by less than half (44%) of men.

The majority of male respondents (56%) said they weren’t at all worried about their fertility.

Around 7% of men are affected by infertility; and sperm counts are in decline.

Men are less likely to seek professional help for fertility problems

The study also found that men are far less likely to seek professional help for fertility difficulties, compared to women.

Almost a third (32%) of women surveyed said they’d be most likely to turn to an NHS fertility or family planning clinic as a first step if they were concerned about their fertility. By comparison, just under a fifth (19%) of men said that an NHS professional would be their first port of call for help. 

Instead, men were twice as likely as women to turn to social media (e.g. TikTok, Instagram or Facebook) if they were worried about their fertility.

A fifth (20%) of men said they wouldn’t turn anywhere for help.

Men feel unable to speak to friends and family about fertility worries 

According to this study, men are also far less likely than women to speak to friends or family about fertility issues. 

Just 44% of men surveyed said they’d feel comfortable discussing their fertility issues with a friend, compared to 62% of women. Men are slightly more comfortable discussing fertility issues with a family member, with 49% saying they’d be happy to do so.

The findings point to a wider trend whereby fertility problems are presented as a “female” issue. A 2017 study for Fertility Network UK found that 39% of men who had been through fertility treatment with their partner had not sought or been offered support, with nearly all support being directed towards female partners. 

This is despite around 50% of fertility problems within a heterosexual relationship being linked to the man’s reproductive health.

A 2015 review of the literature surrounding male factor infertility concluded that attempts should be made to reduce the stigma associated with infertility so that patients feel able to open up and share their problems, to change cultural attitudes and create awareness about male infertility in society.

Tobias Kaufhold, co-founder at fertility company Apryl, comments:

“This new research reveals the true extent to which gendered attitudes to fertility problems are impacting men; from misconceptions surrounding who infertility affects, to the stigma associated with infertility.

“We need to raise awareness that infertility impacts men and women equally and normalise men having honest discussions about fertility worries. 

“It’s also true that the non-birthing partner can often be forgotten in the fertility treatment dynamic. We need to create new, inclusive routes to fertility treatments that include partners in the support package and recognise the unique emotional toll fertility struggles take on both parents in a partnership.”

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