Prof. Brennan Peterson: Coping With Male Infertility as a Family | All Together #30

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Dr. Brennan Peterson, a professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at the Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences at Chapman University in Orange, California, USA

Many families face the challenge of male infertility, a topic often shrouded in silence and stigma. Destigmatizing male infertility, fostering inclusiveness, and nurturing understanding address its emotional impact on families.

Meet Dr. Brennan Peterson

Dr. Brennan Peterson is a professor in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. He taught graduate and undergraduate courses at Chapman University for 20 years. He researches the mental health implications of infertility and counseling interventions for couples experiencing fertility treatment. Dr. Brennan is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

He has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Brennan has presented his work in the United States, Israel, Europe, China, Hong Kong, and Australia. He has written for the Washington Post and has been quoted in the New York Times, Reuters Health, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, and Los Angeles Times. 

About the episode

Male infertility affects 12 to 16% of couples worldwide and is often not discussed openly. It becomes a hidden issue and a psychological stressor for couples who desire to broaden their family by having a biological child.

The lack of representation and information about male infertility in ads and clinics is a problem, as it leads to men feeling excluded and unsupported. According to Dr. Brennan, ads for fertility clinics often focus on women, leaving out the experiences of men. It makes men less likely to attend appointments and feel excluded. 

The traditional perspective of family as a heterosexual couple with biological children living in the same household is just one type of family form. Dr. Brennan shared that supporting couples going through infertility requires families to challenge their assumptions, respect boundaries, and ask how they can best help the couple. He recommended family members let go of the need to ask about having children and respect the couple’s boundaries.

Additionally, Dr. Brennan discussed that male infertility can be isolating, and there is a need for a more inclusive and understanding culture. The pressure of societal expectations on having children can be challenging for both men and women. He also acknowledged that stigma exists for those who choose not to have children or opt for adoption.

Coping with male infertility as a couple involves understanding how each partner’s coping strategies can impact the other. Couples can attend therapies to learn empathic communication in dealing with the emotional needs and negative cycles caused by male infertility. While the pain of failed treatment cannot be taken away, couples can work through it together.

In conclusion

Male infertility presents a challenge for a considerable percentage of couples globally, but it is often concealed and rarely openly discussed. The emotional strain on couples aspiring to grow their families is a significant consequence of this hidden issue. Understanding the experience, showing humility, and fostering an inclusive and empathetic culture are crucial for families to support those navigating infertility. 

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