A qualitative study on the effects of infertility on men across the dimensions of: Coping, marriage, sexuality, career, supports and resolution

Richard P. Costigan (1992)

Eight men who have been attempting to have a biological child for an average of five years and who were previously childless, were interviewed to obtain data on the emotional experience of infertility. Subjects had a mean age of almost thirty-seven years and had been married for an average of ten years. A semi-structured interview was employed. Data was coded, analyzed across subjects and results are presented in words and matrix displays. Results indicate that the men in this study tend to rely on work and engage in new activities as a means to cope with infertility. Half of the subjects had also been in psychotherapy. The participants in this study clearly indicated that their sex lives had been negatively influenced by the process of infertility. Infertility did not have a negative impact on the marital relationships of the men in this study. Subjects reported that their relationships with their wives either stayed the same or their relationship improved. For the most part, infertility did not have a negative impact on men's careers or their work except when their work involved a high level of contact with children. More than half of the subjects expressed difficulties with the process of dealing with the medical process or procedures. In general, the men were deeply concerned about the possibility of not becoming fathers. Passing on one's genes was found to be only mildly important for the majority of subjects, for two of the subjects it was critical. The men in this group appeared to have little support from peers and family members, and they report a reluctance to talk about infertility, a contradiction based on how energetically they responded to the interview. Results are presented by highlighting statements made by subjects in an orderly and systematic manner using a detailed coding system. The discussion focuses on the difficulties in recruiting subjects, the impact of the results for future research and intervention, and a discussion of how these results might be used in helping men who are experiencing infertility.