30.11.2017 Eastern Healing

Emotional cost of male infertility

The effect on men unable to have a child is often profound but largely neglected, says Oliver LeJus

Many us would be surprised to know that men are responsible for up to 40% of cases of infertility in a couple.

Several factors can affect the male reproductive system causing the sperm production to decline. These include surgeries, chronic illnesses and prescribed medications. Poor lifestyle, especially alcohol abuse, smoking, recreational drugs, inadequate diet, lack of exercise and emotional stress can also have damaging effects on a man’s ability to reproduce.

Due to its influence on the nervous system, preliminary medical studies have shown that acupuncture can, in many cases, increase testosterone levels, reduce stress and anxiety and improve erectile dysfunction and sperm quality and volume.

Since it takes approximately three months for the sperm to be produced, it is important to treat a male patient for at least that period of time before a measured sperm improvement can be expected.

In Oriental medicine, the kidney organs are the foundation of the body.

They store the life energy that triggers the major hormonal changes that occur in our life, from the onset of puberty to menopause. In men’s health, these organs are responsible not only our sexual drive, but also for the quality and quantity of the sperm produced by our body. Other factors such as excessive internal heat can also have a detrimental effect on the man’s reproductive system, as well as poor blood circulation in the sexual organs.

With modern medical technology, Western specialists are now able to perform incredible feats to resolve men’s reproductive problems. Individual sperm can be injected straight into the egg (ICSI) to bypass quality and mobility issues, and in case of ejaculatory difficulties, semen samples can be collected directly from the testicles.

Unfortunately, there are many occasions when the couple will not be successful in their efforts to conceive. Both partners then have to accept that they will never accomplish their dream. It is a very difficult process of grieving for the life they will never have.

In these cases it seems natural to empathise more for the women involved, although it can be equally distressing for a man to accept that he will never be a father.

While Australian statistics show that a quarter of women will never have a child, to my knowledge no research seems to have been conducted on the incidence of men who have never been a father.

Apart from infertility, men will remain without a child because they never had a long term relationship, or they were unlucky to have found their life partner too late in life.

There is also the issue of falling birth rates.In many countries, women are now choosing to have children later in life when their fertility is declining, so family size has decreased and fewer men are becoming fathers. Since the younger generation has traditionally been the main social and economical support for their parents and elders, this is becoming an enormous concern for future society.

In many cultures, it is a male’s duty to produce offspring and keep the family name and genetic inheritance alive.

When he is unable to succeed, he can experience a sense of having failed his ancestors. Without children to keep them connected with others, many men struggle against loneliness and depression, with increased risks of suicide, addiction, violence and incidence of heart and lung disease.

Robin Hadley is an Englishman who never had the chance to become a father.He remembers being “broody” while he was in his 30s. Finding himself unable the express his longing for a child, he ended up suffering a great deal. Consequently, he decided, several decades later, to quit his job as a professional photographer to become a counsellor.

After discovering that very little research had been conducted about men’s experience of childlessness, he subsequently self funded his Master of Counselling degree on the subject of “The life experience of men aged 50+ who don’t have a child and wanted to be a father”.

As he conducted interviews, he discovered that while British men had often been conditioned to suppress their emotions, once a trusting relationship was established, they had little difficulty in expressing the emotional turmoil they had been facing for so long. Many participants linked their childlessness to episodes of depression or revealed that they had stayed in terrible relationships for years because they didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to be a father.

Mr Hadley found little difference in the desire to become a parent between female and male childless people.His research also indicated that, “For some males not becoming a father had a greater negative impact than reported by the female participants.”

This lead to the creation of a support organisation called Ageing Without Children (AWOC), for a positive later life without children. They have conducted many successful workshops and seminars for both men and women in England. Unfortunately, having failed to receive any government funding, they are now unable to say how long they will be able to continue.

I would like to believe that the situation might be better in this country.

Olivier Lejus

Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com