Fertility is a taboo topic for British men

New survey reveals 46% of men would not be open to discussing fertility with their GP.

Fertility is a taboo topic for British men Male fertility is a huge taboo in the UK with many men unwilling to discuss or address their fertility concerns with their partner or GP, according to new research released today from Nuffield Health, in partnership with Infertility Network UK. The survey , commissioned in advance of National Fertility Awareness Week 2-8 November, also showed that a vast number of men are unaware of the significant impact that their lifestyle choices could have on their fertility.

The survey, which questioned over 2,000 men from across the country, highlights how sensitive and isolating male fertility issues can be. Over half of all men (52 per cent) said they would not be open to discussing fertility with their partner and 46 per cent of men said they would not be open to discussing this with their GP. The results come despite the fact that almost 1 in 4 of those surveyed believe that fertility issues are exclusively or normally a male problem, when actually they are as likely to be male in origin as female in origin (40% male; 40% female and 20% mixed factor/unexplained fertility problems).

Helen Lyall, fertility expert and Consultant at Nuffield Health Glasgow Hospital, said:  
“From my experience, it is clear that men may be embarrassed to talk about fertility problems and it’s generally women who make the first step towards addressing fertility concerns. However, with one in six couples facing fertility issues, it is important to reassure men that this is not a taboo subject and to take away the stigma around discussing fertility.”

She added: 
“There are many options to consider for couples who are trying to conceive, and for those who are concerned, we’d advise them to speak to their GP or a fertility specialist as soon as possible to give them the best chance of finding a successful solution.”

The reluctance of men to discuss or address fertility issues is particularly concerning as the survey uncovers the huge negative impact that problems with fertility can have on other areas of life. Of those surveyed, almost a third admitted to having experienced fertility issues: almost 60 per cent of these men revealed that it had negatively impacted their relationship; 1 in 3 said it had a negative influence on their work life and, 40 per cent felt it had an adverse effect on their mental health.

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of the leading patient fertility charity Infertility Network UK, said:
“A key message in National Fertility Awareness Week is that men matter too. Men are half of the fertility equation; they experience the pain and grief of struggling to become parents too. However, the male perspective can be overlooked. The survey reveals that nearly half of all men feel there is not enough support and information for men about fertility issues and going forwards we hope to address this with men and their partners, as well as healthcare professionals.”

Nuffield Health and Infertility Network UK hope to inform men about the impact that lifestyle can have on fertility; something the survey showed there is little awareness of. 

When discussing the impact of lifestyle, results showed that almost half (49 per cent) of those surveyed were not aware of the negative impact that age can have on their fertility. It also revealed that more than 1 in 3 men were not aware of the effects that alcohol has on fertility. However, of the 64 per cent of men who did realise the negative impact alcohol can have, a quarter chose to ignore this and admitted to regularly consuming excessive amounts. This is also the case when it comes to smoking: a third of respondents (33 per cent), despite knowing smoking had a negative effect on fertility, still choose to smoke regularly.

Almost half of those surveyed (46 per cent) did not know that being overweight or obese can negatively affect fertility. Of the remaining respondents who were aware of the impact of weight, 34 per cent consider themselves to be overweight or obese despite knowing the risks this can have.  Surprisingly 55 per cent of men were also not aware of the impact that sexually-transmitted infections can have on their fertility.

Nuffield Health has been providing fertility services at a number of hospitals since 1985. Since it was launched 30 years ago, around 6,000 babies have been conceived through Nuffield Health Hospital Glasgow’s Fertility Service, with some would-be parents traveling from all over the UK and as far afield as Hong Kong, France and Cyprus for treatment. For further information, please visit nuffieldhealth.com/fertility

Male fertility case studies are available on request. A full copy of the report can be downloaded here

1Men’s’ fertility study conducted October 2015 by Nuffield Health. Questioned 2,006 UK men aged 21 to 50.

Last updated Thursday 10 March 2016

First published on Monday 2 November 2015