Men find it difficult to accept they are infertile
When the results from one of the local In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) clinics indicated the James (not his really name) had an infertility problem, he felt like committing suicide.
“I wondered how I was going to live without being able to father a child. For a moment, I felt life had no meaning,” James recalls the thoughts that went through his mind last year.
The diagnosis had shown that James had a zero sperm count and hence he had to rely on donor sperm if wanted to get a child. It took him one year to accept his condition. To date, he has ensured that the issue remains a guarded secret known only to him, the wife and the medical personnel attending to him. Conversely, when women are told about their infertility, it also triggers panic. But the difference is they openly share their problem with other women.
Fertility experts say by doing so, women are able to manage the stress that comes with infertility much better than the men. This explains why when it comes to interviews with the media, women are more willing to be quoted than the men. There cases where the men have warned their wives of dire consequences if they talk to the media.
But why do men treat infertility with such secrecy? The answer lies in the way the society holds a man and infertility issues.
“Whenever a couple cannot get a baby, the problem is always seen to be a woman’s. The society never thinks a man can be infertile,” says Dr Prafull Patel of Aga Khan Hospital.
Joy Noreh of Nairobi IVF Centre says the most delicate person to handle when delivering the infertility results is the man.
“It is usually even more painful for the man if he is found to be infertile and the woman not. They take time to come to terms with this finding, but in most cases we are seeing their women spouses supporting them.”
Joy says this is reason why they have employed a counsellor to talk to the couple before and after the fertility test are done. This prepares them to accept the outcome of the test and the IVF results.
Fertility pundits have also learnt that while women are willing to use donated eggs in cases where they cannot generate their own, men without sperms are very reluctant to use the sperm of another man.
What is however interesting is scientific studies indicate that in cases of infertility, almost the same number of men and women are to blame. In some cases, it has been shown that 55 percent of the infertility causes are due to male related factors, while 45 percent are due to women.
At the Nairobi IVF Centre, men related factors contribute to over 30 percent of infertility among couples, but the men take long to accept when they are told they are the problem.
Some have been known to turn violent when their wives suggest they use sperms donated by other men to get their own biological child. For men, this is about deflating their ego.