Infertility can feel alienating for a couple and for each individual partner. In reality, it affects many couples—about one in six couple in the United States. And it’s not just a woman’s issue. On average, 15% of men experience infertility.
"We see an even split between men and women infertility cases," says James Hotaling, MD, a urologist specialized in male infertility at University of Utah Health. "About 30 percent of the time, the male partner is the sole cause of the infertility, and 20 percent of the time, both partners experience fertility obstacles."
Some men experience erectile dysfunction (ED) due to anxiety about performing when trying to get pregnant. Couples trying to conceive with timed sex—using an ovulation test to track their ovulation cycle to pinpoint the best time to get pregnant—can be really anxious. This timing can be stressful as you only have a short window to do the deed.
The male partner can feel pressured to have sex or to provide a sample while the stakes are high, which can cause ED. In these types of cases, your provider may prescribe sildenafil (Viagra).
"We've found that simply having the prescription and knowing you can use it when you need is enough for some men,” Hotaling says. “Other men use the medication for a short period of time and discontinue use when their partner becomes pregnant."
Regardless of the cause, if you or your partner are having infertility issues, know that you aren't alone, and that options and coping methods exist.
Tips on How to Cope with Male Infertility
1. Go to a fertility expert
Make an appointment with a reproductive urologist to find out what particular issue you're facing. Don't be afraid to ask questions!
2. Talk about the issue with your partner
Talk about the options available and what procedures, if necessary, you are comfortable undergoing. We also recommend bringing your partner to your appointments.
3. Improve sperm quality
Learn more about how nutrition and lifestyle can affect your sperm.
Research shows that regularly exercising helps reduce stress, which could take some of the pressure off of you or your partner while trying to conceive.
5. Find a Support Network
Talking about infertility can be hard. You're addressing some feelings you may not be comfortable with, but if you avoid them, it could compound anxiety and grief. Speak openly with your partner, trusted friends, and family members, or a health care professional.