Giving a voice to diverse men's experiences of infertility
Lawson, Kimberly Dianne
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Infertility is the inability to conceive after at least 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse (Dooley, Nolan, & Sarma, 2011; Kelly-Weeder, 2012; World Health Organization [WHO], 2016). It is estimated that 8-12% of all heterosexual couples, or 80 million people worldwide, are infertile (Leon, 2010; WHO, 2002). Research on infertility has given preference to the experiences of women and couples who seek medical assistance for infertility (Almeling & Waggoner, 2013), while research on infertility experiences of heterosexual men are still rare given that approximately 50% of infertility cases involve men’s infertility (Culley, Hudson, & Lohan, 2013; Pacey, 2009). The current study assessed the diverse experiences of eight men through their process of infertility utilizing Grounded Theory to analyze and establish a theoretical understanding of the experiences. The study found that the experiences of men with infertility differ based upon whether they were diagnosed with male-factor infertility, or female-factor or unknown infertility. Men with male-factor infertility were found to experience a response to diagnosis and treatment which included more avoidance and distancing behaviors in response to distress and emotional pain. Men diagnosed with female-factor or unknown infertility tended to respond to diagnosis and treatment with active coping skills which sought to find a resolution to the problem of infertility as a means of working to support their wives. Themes that arose among the participants was the impact of societal messages, responses to diagnosis, responses to treatment, impact on relationships, impacts on the self, and recommendations from the men to medical and mental health professionals. Variables which were found to impact men’s adherence to the model included racial and ethnic identity, income, access to treatment, and identity development. Clinical implications for the findings of this study and future research directions are also discussed.