Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology

By Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Myths and reality in male infertility

Sammy Lee

Sammy Lee is a scientific consultant at the Portland Hospital.

Male infertility accounts for up to 60 per cent of all cycles of ART (assisted reproductive technology) in the Western world today, yet little is said in public about it, which reflects the isolation and desolation experienced by those with a diagnosis of male infertility. Male infertility challenges how men think about themselves-shattering their own beliefs in male supremacy. Even in today's world, being male is still all about male dominance, which means that men have a free rein over which roles they adopt, so long as they are manly ones: hunter, breadwinner, head of the family, and so on. Female roles are forbidden and inferior. Men do not cry, they are not allowed to love, or display love as women do; they rarely display their emotions in private and especially not in public. Men are men, which means that they are responsible, macho, virile and do not need help. They are rational and objective, but they are also afraid of their emotions. Through their emotional distance, men seek to have power and control, which is a key part of their value system whereby work, independence and dominance become all-important.

A diagnosis of male infertility is shocking, not only because of its social stigma, but also because those who seek a second and third opinion find themselves becoming confused, isolated and frustrated. Until very recently, little attention was paid to the man in most infertility clinics (which even now are often held in gynaecology clinics in maternity buildings). As a consequence, men willing to acknowledge male infertility and to 'come out of the closet' are few and far between. The fact that most infertility specialists are men trained in gynaecology has also served to maintain myths about male infertility.

I am a clinical scientist and have been working in IVF (in vitro fertilisation) since 1985. Even as a 'lab rat' directing busy IVF laboratories, I have found the exposure to couples undergoing treatment extreme. In ART there is nowhere to hide. Patients will seek you out when they need advice and information, which all too often can only come from the laboratory itself. By 1991, having directed laboratories which had completed over 10,000 cycles of ART, I was shell-shocked, perhaps even punch-drunk. Even in the best of clinics at that time, more cycles failed than succeeded. The failures began to haunt me. I therefore trained as a counsellor and have been counselling IVF couples since 1991. The counselling

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Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Fertility Clinic 11
  • Experiencing Infertility 17
  • Chapter 3 - Clinical Waste 19
  • Chapter 4 - One Man's Story 27
  • Psychological Aspects 31
  • Chapter 5 - Eros and Art 33
  • Notes 45
  • Chapter 6 - Mourning the Never Born and the Loss of the Angel 47
  • Chapter 7 - The Battle with Mortality and the Urge to Procreate 60
  • Bibliography 72
  • Chapter 8 - Myths and Reality in Male Infertility 73
  • Bibliography 84
  • Chapter 9 - Love, Hate and the Generative Couple 86
  • Changing Patterns of Kinship 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Story of Seth's Egg 105
  • Chapter 11 - Seth 109
  • Chapter 12 - Gifts of Life in Absentia 120
  • Chapter 13 - Women's Work 143
  • Bibliography 165
  • Chapter 14 - Egg Donation 166
  • The Shadow 179
  • Chapter 15 - Dark Reflections 181
  • Afterword 205
  • Chapter 16 - Afterword 207
  • Appendix 217
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Art (Assisted Reproductive Technology) 219
  • Index 227
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