Apryl: Fertility is not just a women’s healthcare issue

Fertility issues
Jenny Saft, CEO and Co-Founder of health service Apryl, is breaking gendered fertility misconceptions & empowering men in their fertility journey

As a woman, Jenny Saft has always been aware of her fertility. Whether it was repeated references to her “body clock” while growing up, or persistent questions about when she was going to “settle down and have a family” in recent years, her ability to reproduce has always been at the front of her mind. 

“Knowing that I might want children one day, this awareness prompted me to freeze my eggs a few years ago,” Saft says. “Fertility has been a conscious consideration as I’ve planned for my future. But for men, this is much less often the case.”

Here, she tells Healthcare Digital more about fertility, healthcare and dangerous misconceptions.

 

The stigma and mental health toll of fertility struggles

A recent survey conducted by the team at Apryl found that almost one-fifth of men believe that women are more likely to experience fertility issues. Yet in reality, fertility problems among heterosexual couples impact men and women in equal measure

“There is a significant disconnect between our perception of fertility and the realities of how it affects the general population. Treating fertility as a women’s issue is a dangerous misconception, and one that is stopping couples from getting the fertility support that they need,” says Saft. 

While evidence has shown that global male fertility rates are plummeting, the bias towards treating fertility as a “female” issue means there remains little public awareness as to why this is happening. 

“Male fertility is too often seen as synonymous with ‘sperm count’; but there are a number of ways a man’s fertility can be affected, including sperm motility, sperm shape and erectile dysfunction,” she continues. “A lack of knowledge can stop men from accessing the right care and support and receiving a diagnosis. In some cases, a lack of understanding about male fertility can ultimately harm their long-term ability to conceive.

“What’s even more concerning is that only 19% of men say that they would turn to a professional for fertility advice. Around one-fifth say that they wouldn’t seek help at all. The stigma perpetuated by the belief that fertility is first and foremost a women’s issue is leaving a large number of men feeling unable to reach out for support, or convinced that they don’t need it in the first place. Outdated stereotypes which link ‘manhood’ with ‘virility’ only feed this stigma, impacting men’s willingness to publicly discuss the challenges that they are facing.”

Aside from the practical care that this denies men - which could help to identify and treat any fertility problems they may be experiencing - gendered fertility attitudes are also stopping them from receiving support for the mental toll that trying, and failing, to conceive can have. 

“For women, the imbalance in attitudes to fertility is equally as dangerous. Disproportionate responsibility often lands on our shoulders; the assumption that fertility challenges are likely to originate in our bodies can leave women facing countless tests and treatments before their male partners’ fertility is even called into question. This means we are often forced to endure invasive - and costly - procedures unnecessarily. In comparison, male fertility tests and treatments are less invasive; and where a treatable problem is found, these tests can prevent couples from embarking on costly treatments, such as IVF, unnecessarily.”

 

Fertility education and support for men 

Saft says that it’s time that we stop treating fertility as a women’s issue. To redress this imbalance in public perception and empower people of all genders to increase their chances of having children if they want to, we must prioritise the following three things:

 

Increasing education on male fertility 

Ensuring that men and boys are supported to fully understand their reproductive health, and the things that they can do to support it, from a much younger age.

 

Tackling the stigma around male infertility

By encouraging wider public conversations around the unique challenges that men can face when it comes to trying to conceive, and championing those who speak out about their own experiences.

 

Improving access to support and care services

Increasing awareness of the options available to men who may need to seek support with their fertility; whether that’s speaking to their doctor, visiting a specialist fertility clinic, or accessing support as part of their workplace benefits.

 

“Gendered attitudes to fertility are dangerously outdated and can significantly damage the chances of conception for some couples who wish to start a family in the future. We must actively challenge the misguided assumptions that present fertility as a women’s issue and open up the conversation to break down the stigma stopping men from seeking support,” says Saft. “Only then will we be able to effectively tackle falling fertility rates and ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, has equal access to parenthood.”

 

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Other magazines that may be of interest - Manufacturing Magazine.

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