Destigmatizing Male Infertility

While sperm counts in men have dropped drastically over the last 50 years, causing more and more men to face infertility issues, the stigma surrounding male infertility continues to shame men into suffering in silence. Open conversations about infertility in the male community are largely absent, leading to a lack of feeling of shared commonality. The- result is echoed silence with men suffering alone. Why are men still afraid to a talk about infertility when it is more common than ever before?

Perhaps part of the reason for the absence of open conversation is that fertility in men has long been associated with virility and masculinity. Although gender roles have blended in the workforce and at home over time, men still feel a need to provide for their family, and, for many, part of this providing means their ability to procreate. As Paul Flynn, who had been trying for years to conceive with his wife, told The  New York Times, “The fertility specialist informed us I had virtually no sperm. I sat there thinking, ‘I’m a man, I’m supposed to procreate.’ It was a real blow to my self-esteem and who I thought I was.” There is a stigma with men that infertility is a disorder which hinders their ability to be a “man,” so to speak, but in reality male infertility and subfertility (reduced fertility or prolonged time of non-conception) is quite common, and according to ABC News, affects one in 20 Australian men.   

Male Infertility Caused by Health, Lifestyle Choices, Age

Men tend to blame themselves for fertility issues, but I feel it is important to note that, just like women who suffer from infertility, male infertility is no one’s fault. There are several causes for male infertility. Sperm disorders, such as lack of sperm, immature sperm and abnormally shaped sperm, can play a part in infertility as well as structure and flow issues. Infections, immune diseases, scar tissue or genetic issues can be culprits, which is why it is important to get tested and to seek help.

Age also plays a factor with men. At one time, women were thought to be the ones bearing the burden of the biological clock, but it is now evident that men also share the time-ticking clock. According to The New York Times, men over 45 are five times more likely to take a year or more in order to conceive a child with their partner than men who are younger than 45. Dr. Gloria Bachmann, M.D., director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, states, “The older the man is, the more likely his sperm are to have DNA damage that doesn’t make them as potent.” Sperm volume, shape and movement capabilities all decrease with age.

Lifestyle choices also affect fertility, with obesity, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and having high stress levels topping the list. Sperm counts can increase by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and sustaining healthy sleeping and eating habits. Cutting down on smoking and drinking also play a part in the production and quality of sperm. The New York Times states that smokers were “significantly more likely to have low sperm counts and sperm defects” compared with their non-smoking counterparts. Men who had less than five drinks a week also fared much higher with sperm counts. Women have been held to these standards for years with prenatal vitamins and healthy regimens even before they become pregnant. It now seems evident that men, too, need to make lifestyle changes to increase fertility.

Environmental Effects on Male Sperm Count

More recently, fertility experts have recognized the importance of environmental factors on male sperm counts. Toxins, chemicals, radiation, and X- rays all take a toll on sperm, but perhaps most shocking to me is the possible effect of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are found in everything from plastic toys to food packaging to plastic bottles to commercial food, and they can affect the normal signaling of hormones. As Dr. Deidre Mattiske, a researcher at the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, told ABC News, “It’s really important that we understand the impacts of EDCs, and that we’re trying to figure out ways to minimize exposure not only for males now but for future generations.”

With sperm counts dropping over the past several decades, the fertility rate has dropped 50 percent worldwide between 1960 and 2015, according to the New York Post. The article goes on to say that men today have less sperm and less testosterone than their fathers and that the total U.S. birth rate is 16 percent below where it should be to replace itself. With environmental factors and lifestyle choices taking their toll on fertility, there really need to be more avenues available for men to discuss this ever-increasing commonality. 

Few Support Systems for Infertile Males

Sadly, even with the growing number of men who suffer from infertility, there continues to be a lack of resources for men to openly discuss their feelings. Esmee Hanna, a male infertility researcher at De Monfort University in England, told Time that in a study of 41 males, 93 percent said that they suffered from depression, loneliness, and anxiety over a life without children, and some men reported being suicidal. Yet, nearly half of these men failed to seek help.

Why? The stigma continues that if a man cannot procreate, he is not a man. Liberty Barnes, a medical socialist, also states in Time, “So much of masculinity in America is about being strong, independent and capable as a man. If you can’t get your wife pregnant, you can’t help but compare yourself to other men and feel inferior.”

As assisted reproductive technology has evolved and become more accessible and socially acceptable to more people, the taboos and stigmatization of infertility have begun to give way to open discussion. Today, celebrities and personal acquaintances alike are more likely to share their joyful stories of becoming parents via assisted reproductions, to broad public and personal support. But, while approximately a third of infertility is related to female reproductive factors, a third to male reproductive factors and a third to combined or unknown factors, many of the support networks that have sprung up have focused on women.

As we reported back in 2013, a large percentage of male infertility can be corrected with treatment or lifestyle changes. But if men are too ashamed of the potential stigma to get tested, they have no way of knowing the cause of their infertility and if it is treatable. Even in cases in which male infertility is not treatable, more support groups and forums where men to discuss their feelings freely would go a long way toward removing stigma and normalizing the condition.



Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.