In honor of Men’s Health Month, Dr. Estil Strawn from the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Reproductive Medicine Center shares his helpful perspective about the importance of male fertility testing and treatment. If you are trying to get pregnant, please take time to read this piece, and share it with your male partner.
Nearly one in six people have some type of difficulty becoming pregnant and delivering a baby. Still, I am always amazed at the number of patients and doctors who do not consider testing men for fertility problems. I just recently spoke with a doctor who, after performing a number of tests and treating a young woman with fertility drugs for many months, asked me what I might recommend. I asked the doctor if the woman’s male partner had been evaluated, and the response was she is not ovulating, so I wanted to treat that problem first. Women commonly come to our fertility clinic and state I know it must be me when they are struggling to have a baby. Unfortunately, this approach and attitude to focus only on the woman exists far too often, even as people become more educated about their fertility treatment options.
Men account for up to 35 to 40 percent of fertility problems in couples and in nearly 20 percent of cases the man is the only problem. In other words, when a couple has trouble conceiving, a man might be contributing to fertility problems almost HALF the time. Even if a woman has blocked fallopian tubes from a tubal sterilization or infection or if she is not ovulating, to ignore the male partner may mean trying fertility drugs or surgeries that may have little chance for success.
I really try to emphasize that when a woman has difficulty becoming pregnant, her male partner should provide a semen analysis while she undergoes fertility testing. If his semen analysis is abnormal, I will always recommend a second, and potentially a third, semen analysis to ensure accuracy. If these semen analyses are consistently abnormal, the male partner should see a urologist who is also a specialist in male infertility. This is preferable to seeing a general urologist who does not have a special interest and specialized training in male fertility issues.
Please be reassured that there are many potential options for treating male factor infertility. The evaluation of the male partner is very similar to the evaluation of the female. The male partner should have a thorough medical history and physical, potentially undergo evaluation of his hormone levels and in some cases may even need genetic testing or specialized testing in radiology.
If patients and doctors remember to adequately evaluate men at the same time as the woman, there will be a lot less frustration and greater chances for pregnancy success.
Estil Y. Strawn, Jr. M.D. is doubly board certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is the medical director of the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Reproductive Medicine Center. Dr. Strawn is also full professor with tenure at the Medical College of Wisconsin where he serves as the director of the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Strawn has been helping patients overcome their fertility problems for 19 years, and has directed a center that is one of the largest providers of fertility services in the state of Wisconsin. This center provides some of the most advanced types of technologies in the country including pre implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), egg freezing, egg and embryo donation, gestational carriers, as well as robotic surgery for uterine fibroids and reversal of fallopian tube sterilization.