Perhaps one of the most depressing things that can happen to a man who is looking forward to being a father is finding out that he is infertile. That’s what Adam Glogau felt after he and his wife tried for years to have a child, to no avail, and he fell into a downward spiral.
Glogau cuts a dynamic figure with glowing blue eyes and rimless glasses. Now 39, he is an eloquent speaker and a youth pastor at the Grace Downtown church in Winchester, Virginia, which is known for providing support to victims of the opioid epidemic. Six years ago, however, Glogau’s life was coming apart. He and his wife had fostered two children, but the arrangement ended badly, with the children going to another family. Then Glogau lost the job he’d held for seven years. “I felt like I was a failed father, I was a failed husband, and now I’m a failed man because I can’t keep a job,” he says. “It was whammy after whammy after whammy.”
Although men are just as likely as women to have fertility problems, ads for fertility treatment typically feature women holding giggling babies in the air or intimately touching a child’s face. Yet research suggests that reproductive issues have a profound emotional impact on men, too. Across the globe, masculinity is marked, in part, by the ability to have children — a demonstration “that you’re a fertile, virile man,” says Esmée Hanna, a sociologist at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom. In her research on men experiencing infertility, Hanna has documented feelings of loss, anger, frustration, and guilt.
With this rather woman-centric approach to the problem, many men suffer from infertility in silence.
Shadowed by taboo and embarrassment, the emotional experience of male infertility has been tucked away and ignored by the medical industry and often by men themselves. Compared with women, men are less likely to want to talk about their struggles, says Kelly Da Silva, a support coordinator at Care Fertility in the U.K. But men are now starting to speak out, and innovative practitioners are figuring out how to meet their needs. “You have to do it their way,” says California-based urologist Paul Turek. “You have to do it anonymously, quietly, and it has to be valuable for them.”.
And so maybe it is time to bring this medical field into the light and out of the darkness.
Know more about this topic, as well as the history of andrology, over at Undark.
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