"In general men react differently than women to infertility. They are less apt to discuss it and tend to internalize their feelings," says Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide To Educate and Inspire.
Dr. Rink Murray is a dad who struggled with infertility. He's also a reproductive endocrinologist who helps others create families. He says, "As a physician, I know what my patients are experiencing to a great degree and this helps both them and me. Sometimes I know what they will feel before they feel it."
What he may be feeling — even if he doesn't express it
Murray says, "Infertility is not something you expect. For us, as it does for a lot of people, it starts as a trickle. Like first raindrops, you might not think too much about how it's taking a little while longer than you might have expected. But when a sizable time has passed, and after having seen specialists and after failing treatments, suddenly you realize that you are in a a flood of sorrow, despair and hopelessness."
Whether infertility is due to male or female factor may make a difference with how he copes.
Waichler explains, "Male factor infertility brings up all kinds of issues for men — guilt about not being able to continue the genetic line of their family [or] feelings of shame and inadequacy."
And if infertility is female factor? "Men tend to want to protect their wives and absorb the stress because they sense the depression, frustration, anger this causes their female partners," she explains. "Their inclination is to protect their partners."
Finding support is key
Men need it — though Murray acknowledges it can be tough to find. "First of all, people who had an easy time getting pregnant often give the worst advice," he says. "Second, if you go to a support group, the group will change as successful patients frequently leave because they feel it would be insensitive to the remaining patients. Seeing a counselor can be very helpful."
And if your man shares how he's coping with infertility a little too much? "Be comfortable talking about it but don't let this discussion overtake your lives where that is all that is ever talked about," advised Waichler.
There is hope
After many procedures, miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy, Murray and his wife tried a round of IVF with a new doctor.
"We were desperate for a miracle," says Murray. "And there was one. And he is here today. He is 9 years old. His name is Loch."