Why do men refuse to do fertility tests?

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‘I can’t get my husband to do a sperm test,’ blurted a friend at a party.

She and her husband have been trying to conceive for over a year. But despite the mutual desire for a child, and the fact they’re both on the wrong side of 35 from a fertility perspective, her husband refuses to get tested.

My friend’s husband isn’t the Lone Ranger when it comes to having his swimmers tested. Trying to Conceive (TTC) online forums are full of women asking for advice on how to convince their partners to take a sperm test.

One woman posts: ‘My husband and I have been TTC for 16 months and so far its not working. They wanted my husband to get tested... that was 3 months ago and he still won't go. Has anyone else had trouble getting their man to take the [sperm] test?’

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Another posts: ‘The doctor said he will try Clomid (fertility drug for women) but he wants to do a sperm test on my husband first. But he is refusing to do it! Not because he doesn't want to have children etc, but feels that it is "gross" and he shouldn’t have to because nothing is wrong with him.’

As someone who’s been through IVF, I’ve heard similar stories from dozens of women. And my first reaction is one of bewilderment. Haven’t men been practicing for this moment their entire lives? Aiming issues aside, how hard is it to ejaculate into a jar?

By comparison, here’s what happened when I had a fertility test. First my gynaecologist stuck her hand up me. Then she inserted an enormous medical device into my vagina and poked around so deeply that I bled for a few hours afterwards. This was followed by a surgical procedure requiring a general anaesthetic while the doctor checked out my ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.

Now, compare all that with masturbating into a cup. When the woman gets turned into a science experiment, a self-administered happy ending doesn’t seem like a very big deal.

But clearly, for many men, it’s a huge deal.

In a recent article published on Salon Greg Pollock writes, ‘Let met tell you: If you ever find yourself in a real JO (jack-off) room, you won’t be laughing.’

The protective mat on the sofa, the pre-loved porno magazines, and the pressure of knowing that another poor bastard is outside waiting for you to finish so he can have his turn, can all contribute to…ahem…performance anxiety.

We also live in a culture that isn’t exactly kind to men who are infertile. Virility and masculinity go together like Hugh Hefner and smoking jackets so you can see why some men would simply prefer not to know if their little boys have issues.

On the other hand, perhaps men need to be reminded that this process is actually about reclaiming control rather than relinquishing it. If the causes of infertility can be properly diagnosed then you can investigate assisted reproductive techniques and then you might be able to fix the problem.

The take-home message is that this is an opportunity for men to do something rather than passively accepting their fate.

I know that fertility tests and assisted reproduction isn’t the stuff of fairy tales. There were four people in the room when I ‘conceived’ my child and three of them were wearing rubber gloves. But once my husband and I held our baby in our arms the indignity and embarrassment of how we made her just didn't matter anymore.

Sadly not everyone’s so lucky. But even if you are unable to have a baby, the awkwardness and struggle of trying is not for nothing. There is some comfort in knowing that you at least tried. Otherwise all you are left with is regret and wondering about what might have been — and that pain lasts longer than the embarrassment of everyone knowing that you just had a wank.

Kasey Edwards is the author of Thirty-Something and The Clock is Ticking: What Happens When You Can No Longer Ignore the Baby Question. www.kaseyedwards.com

27 comments

  • Kasey, it is NOT ok that a gynaecologist used a medical devive on you so harshly that you 'bled for a few hours afterwards'. Nor is it ok that you were forced to lose all sense of dignity and privacy in your desire to have a child. Steps could and SHOULD have been taken to treat you respectfully and with consideration.

    Commenter
    Sydney Chick
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 8:32AM
    • Yes, I'd be concerned about bleeding (but perhaps it's not uncommon..?)
      I think she is making the point that whilst fertility checks for women are rather invasive in comparison men only have to masturbate in a private room and make a song and dance about it.

      But let's be honest, like pap smears although you are doing it to protect your health and for the greater good it's always going to be awkward, uncomfortable and embarassing.

      Commenter
      Fiona
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 2:00PM
  • How often is a Jack-off room actually used? My husband has provided three samples (including one for an IVF procedure) and has always produced it at home, and then dropped it off at the clinic or pathologist.

    Commenter
    Judy
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 9:05AM
    • If I had a partner who insisted that an issue that affected us both as a couple was obviously my fault and refused to entertain the possibility that they contributed, I'd turn into a happy singleton very quickly and thank my lucky stars I didn't have kids with them.

      Commenter
      DisDis
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 9:05AM
      • DisDis,

        My thoughts exactly!

        If they don't want to be part of the solution they are part of the problem, ditch them and get on with your life!

        And I AM a guy..... with 2 lovely little girls.....

        Commenter
        Telstra Monopolist
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        October 08, 2012, 10:14AM
      • Given that nearly every man alive knows that it takes 2 people to make a baby, my thought is that if a man is refusing to do this, the most likely reason is because he actually doesn't want children and is quite happy with the non-result so far. Or maybe even have had a secret vasectomy.

        The idea that it's because of some squeamish manhood thing is rubbish.

        Commenter
        Christian
        Date and time
        October 08, 2012, 1:48PM
    • So several one sided anecdotes is enough to make broad based claims ?
      The fact that many, many more men obviosly dont have no problem with the requirements from them, seems to be irrevalant .
      Maybe a more honest headline would have be- 'Why do SOME men refuse ...."
      Or would that fail a commonsense test ?

      Commenter
      LeftyRoy
      Location
      Cidnee
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 9:38AM
      • Well said!

        Commenter
        HighlyDubious
        Date and time
        October 08, 2012, 4:51PM
    • I have provided a sample about 15 times. As a couple we have been doing ivf continuously for three years. .

      There are reasons why men might be reluctant. There is nothing to be bewildered about.

      A key reason is that female patients and clinicians often exclude men from many parts of the process they are not physically involved in. If you are doing it as a couple and going to ALL meetings together, then it is far less likely that men will be reluctant to be involved. Unlike most couples, I am the main point of contact. I get all the instructions, I collect the drugs, I receive the phone calls. I am even the one that tells my wife the (thus far negative) news each time. I have several meetings at the clinic without my wife, she has none without me. This is partly because my office is closer to the clinic than hers.

      I often see that women come to meetings to get instructions, collect drugs and so on by themselves (in far greater numbers than the women who are trying to conceive by themselves.) Don’t forget, fertility is not “women’s business.” Excluding men changes their attitude and thinking, just like excluding women from certain things would.

      Commenter
      yes no pt1
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 9:55AM
      • I sincerely hope that you conceive and get your bundle of joy soon. You sound like a very involved/caring person and will be a hands on dad. You are spot on about the exclusion of the males and it isn't isolated to the conceiving process; my hubby's biggest complaint after the births of our daughters was that nobody spoke to him, it was all directed at me. I only noticed after he pointed it out so maybe more women should try see things from their partner's point of view.

        Commenter
        Robyn
        Date and time
        October 08, 2012, 11:54AM

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