About 40 percent of infertility issues are male-factor and recently, our publicist, Marcia Clark, had an opportunity to interview one of our Attain Fertility doctors about this important topic. Special thanks to Marcia for guest blogging!
“Women are not the only ones that fret about becoming parents,” says Dr. Avner Hershlag, Chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at the North Shore-LIJ Health System, a part of the Attain Fertility® Network. “It takes two to tango. Men and women share equal partnership in conceiving a child.”
“It is not a shame for a man to admit that he may have a fertility issue,” Dr. Hershlag continues, pointing to the fact that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of fertility issues are related to men, another third to women, and a third of fertility issues are either unexplained or related to both men and women. Focusing on men, Dr. Hershlag offers five steps to help increase male fertility:
Step 1: Take a sperm test
If your wife or female partner hasn’t been able to conceive a child, do not wait for her to be tested first. Get a sperm test (“semen analysis.”) It isn’t hard to do.
Step 2: See a specialist
Join your wife/partner on her visits to the fertility doctor. She will appreciate your support. It will be the best way to show her that you’re in it together.
Step 3: When your sperm test is normal
You’re not completely off the hook, and it doesn’t mean that your partner has a problem. A very high percentage of couples have “unexplained infertility.” If you belong to this group, treatment will most likely help you have a child.
Step 4: Sex
Are there sexual issues you’ve been too embarrassed to discuss with your partner, the doctor or even — yourself? Many men have sexual problems, ranging from lack of desire to erectile difficulties. These are almost always treatable. You just have to recognize them and address them with your doctor.
Step 5: When your sperm test is abnormal
If the sperm test is abnormal – the fertility doctor will review the test with you, and if necessary, refer you to an urologist specializing in male fertility.
So, what could be wrong? And if something is found – how fixable is it?
The most common problem found in men is varicocele – an engorged vein in one or both testes. This can be treated surgically. Not all varicoceles need surgery. A simple infection can be treated medically with antibiotics. Another big culprit is drugs. If you have been taking anabolic steroids (like testosterone), your muscles may be beefed up but you may have no sperm. Would you rather be a body builder or a father by next Father’s Day?
If you stop the drugs, your testes will start making sperm, and seeing sperm might be all your wife’s/partner’s egg needs to make a baby.
Sperm is a mirror of a man’s health. Any substance abuse, smoking, illness, may compromise it. It’s nature’s way of preventing men from becoming parents when they’ve taken ill or abuse their bodies. Improving your sperm may be predicated on making yourself healthier.
There are more rare causes for male infertility, including genetic problems and childhood mumps.
Help Is on the Way
Whatever the problem is, there is a solution. Recent advances in fertility treatments provide solutions for practically any type of male infertility. Two of the most common are:
- ICSI, a direct injection of sperm into the egg, can succeed in creating a child even with extremely low sperm numbers
- TESE – testicular sperm extraction – can provide just enough sperm to fertilize the partner’s eggs – even if the sperm count is zero.
These are only two examples of what can be done. The first step in solving the problem is not to put your head in the sand. Instead, recognize the problem, admit it, and be proactive. From there on, it should be a smooth sail to Fatherland.