Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman’s problem, but this is far from the truth. Men are just as involved with infertility as women. About one out of every three cases of infertility is due to the man alone, and a man shares infertility problems with the woman about half the time.
A diagnosis of male infertility can be a hard challenge for a man to face. For some, it can even be devastating. Not being able to father a child can make you feel that you are failing at one of your most primal responsibilities.
Male infertility is real and it is a growing problem. We now know that infertility issues are split evenly between males and females. Each group is responsible for 30 per cent of infertility, and the rest is attributable to a combination of both male and female factors and unexplained reasons. Therefore, it’s important to have both yours and your partners’ fertility checked if you’re having trouble getting pregnant.
Rule of thumb is this: See a specialist if you’re under 35 and have tried to conceive for a year, or if you’re over 35 and have tried for six months. It is not uncommon that some men have the perception that nothing can be done about their infertility. This is not so, a lot can be done. For most men, advances in male infertility treatment offer real help.
The ultimate goal of male infertility treatment is to create a pregnancy. Ideally, if the cause of the infertility is reversible then conception can result from natural sex or assisted reproduction technique.
Understanding male infertility is the best way to go as a start if you are having such a challenge, either as a couple or as an individual.
Sperms are made in the testicles. They’re then stored inside the epididymis, which lies on top of each testicle. Sperm are nourished by semen, which is made by glands along the way. Millions of sperms are ejaculated semen through the penis.
This whole process hinges on there being proper levels of the male hormone – testosterone – and other hormones as well as correct signaling from the nervous system.
Generally, couples are advised to seek fertility evaluations if they are unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. Most newly wedded couples will have had a pregnancy within a year, but if they are over 35, they are urged to seek an evaluation after six months, whether or not it is a male factor infertility problem.
There are a number of causes of male infertility. This malefactor contributes to infertility around half the time, and about one-third of the time, it’s the main cause of infertility. Most often, the problem lies in the process of either making or transporting the sperm.
The bottom line is that if you do not make sperms, that is you have a low sperm count, or you are making abnormal sperm, you might be infertile.
Sometimes, making sperm isn’t the problem, rather, the problem is getting the sperms where they need to go. If you have this type of male infertility, you may be having normal sperm in your testicles. Only a medical investigation can determine what the challenge is.
Even if there is sperm in the semen, but it may be abnormal, very low in number, or not there at all, that is, absent, you could still be infertile. The causes of this kind of infertility include issues such as retrograde ejaculation (when the semen ejaculates backwards into the bladder instead of out through the penis).
There may also be a genetic condition that causes absence of the main sperm pipeline known as the vas deferens. The problem may also be due to an obstruction anywhere between the testicles and the penis.
A thorough physical examination is often necessary to give clues to the underlying problems. The commonest test is the semen analysis, but sperm counts aren’t the most enticing topic of conversation for most men. However, if you’re having trouble conceiving as a couple, and the female factor has been ruled out, you may need to have this investigation done. Genetic tests can also identify specific obstacles to fertility and problems with sperm.
Hormonal abnormalities can sometimes be treated with medicines or surgery and obstructions can sometimes be surgically corrected. Today, thanks to assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) there are very successful new male infertility treatment options.
These high-tech treatments give sperm an artificial boost to get into an egg. ARTs have made conception possible even for men with very low or abnormal sperm.
First, sperm is collected either from ejaculated semen or by a needle from the testicle. They are then processed and introduced to eggs by different methods.
The form of ART for male infertility is called Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). A single sperm is injected through a tiny needle into an egg. The fertilized egg is then implanted in the uterus. This ICSI method can be performed when sperm counts are extremely low or abnormal.
Although Male infertility is best treated by specialists in a suitable fertility clinic, there are things you can do on your own to maximize your fertility.
You should not do things to limit your chances to produce viable sperm, such as taking un-prescribed medication, hard drugs, tobacco, and excessive indulgence in alcoholic drinks. All these harm sperm production.
Of course, living right helps. Anything that improves the quality of health, like adequate sleep and nutrition, should improve fertility.
Living with male infertility could be a huge challenge. Finding out that you’re infertile can be an unpleasant surprise, to say the least. Many men feel emotional stress with a diagnosis of infertility.
Often, there is an embarrassment, but you should not confuse libido and potency with fertility. Quite a number of male infertility issues do not affect your primary ability to produce male hormones, or your sexual function (to have an erection) or your maleness.
Even if things look bleak, the experts always have hopeful advice: Keep trying, don’t give up. Many infertile couples eventually have a child with proper counselling and treatment.