guest article - psychotherapy and male fertility

Dealing with infertility can have a profound impact on a man's mental health and overall well-being. The journey of undergoing fertility treatments can bring about a range of psychological challenges that affect individuals in different ways.

Research has shown that men dealing with infertility are at an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders. One 2018 study[1] showed that as many as 93% of men reported their wellbeing had been affected by the experience of concerns about fertility, causing poor mental wellbeing and self-esteem issues. Another systematic review published in 2024[2] found that men with diagnosed infertility were found to have significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms; this review noted one specific study which found that 1 in 3 men diagnosed with male infertility experienced depressive symptoms. Generally, men are less comfortable discussing their emotions and tend to report lower levels of psychological distress in questionnaires. Consequently, the aforementioned data might be underestimating the actual prevalence of mental health conditions among infertile men. 

In addition to driving anxiety and depression, the emotional toll of infertility can also have a profound effect on a man's self-esteem and sense of masculinity. Men may associate fertility with virility, and the perception of failure in their role as a sexual being can be deeply challenging. The inability to fulfil the fatherhood role may lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure, which can greatly impact a man's self-image and overall well-being.

Infertility can also strain relationships, leading to increased tension, communication difficulties, and frustration between partners. Men experiencing infertility may feel isolated and stigmatised, as infertility is often seen as a women's issue. Societal pressure to remain silent about their struggles further exacerbates feelings of isolation and distress.

Furthermore, infertility can lead to feelings of grief and loss, as men may mourn the inability to conceive a biological child. It can also create a sense of isolation and loneliness, as men may feel disconnected from others who are not experiencing similar challenges. Additionally, infertility can cause financial stress, as fertility treatments can be expensive and may not always be covered by insurance.

How Psychotherapy can help?

In this challenging journey, psychotherapy can be a valuable resource for men dealing with infertility. It provides a non-judgemental space for men to explore their complex thoughts, feelings, and concerns related to infertility. A skilled psychotherapist can create an atmosphere of acceptance and empathy, allowing men to openly express their emotions without fear of judgement or criticism.

Psychotherapy can also help men develop effective coping strategies to deal with the stress and uncertainty of infertility. It can also help them explore their thoughts, values, and beliefs, fostering self-awareness and self-discovery. Through this process, men can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their reactions to infertility, leading to personal growth and increased self-acceptance.

Infertility can evoke a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and grief. In psychotherapy, men can process and validate these emotions in a supportive environment. The psychotherapist actively listens and reflects back the client's feelings, demonstrating empathy and understanding. This validation can help men feel heard and validated, reducing emotional distress and promoting healing.

The focus of psychotherapy is on the client's goals and needs. Men dealing with infertility may have specific objectives, such as improving emotional well-being, enhancing communication with their partner, or making decisions about fertility treatments. The psychotherapist collaborates with the client to identify and work towards these goals, providing guidance and support along the way.

Infertility can make men feel a loss of control and undermine their sense of agency. A psychotherapist can help clients see their inherent capacity for growth and self-direction. The psychotherapist encourages men to tap into their own inner resources and strengths, empowering them to make choices and take actions that align with their values and aspirations.

It is unfortunate that men underutilise psychotherapy services and there are several barriers that contribute to this. Societal expectations of masculinity, limited awareness of available mental health resources, lack of endorsement within their social networks, and the stigma associated with seeking help are some of the factors that discourage men from seeking psychotherapy. Men may also perceive psychotherapy as less effective or relevant to their needs, preferring problem-solving or self-reliance over emotional support.

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards improving one’s mental health and overall well-being. By reaching out to a psychotherapist, men can find the support and guidance they need to navigate the emotional complexities of infertility.

Through psychotherapy, they can gain a better understanding of themselves, develop coping strategies, and enhance their relationships.

If you or someone you know is dealing with infertility and struggling with their mental health, it is important to seek professional help. A psychotherapist can provide invaluable support and guidance, helping men navigate the emotional challenges, regain a sense of self-worth, and strengthen relationships. It is essential to break down the barriers and encourage men to seek the help they need, fostering a society that values emotional well-being and supports individuals on their journey towards healing.

Alejandra Lozada Andrade

BSc (Hons), MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling, PgCIP in Integrative Psychotherapy, MBACP, UKCP, BICA, BFS and BMS registered, Founder of Fertility Support