Knowing about fertility hurdles with the male partner is just as important as knowing about the female’s. While male factor infertility is becoming more widely understood by physicians, awareness by the general public is lagging behind. With more communication and understanding, we can end the stigma of infertility for both males and females.
Here are three things to know about male factor infertility.
- It’s not usually considered until after the female partner is checked.
In our society, when people think of “infertility,” usually they assume the problem is the woman’s. A recent study showed only 41% of OB/GYN doctors considered a urological evaluation of the male partner (Resolve.org). Surprisingly, 40% of fertility issues involve unexplained male factor/low sperm count.
Women are often told to get checked out first, when in fact, it is very easy for the male to get a semen analysis done. It’s not invasive, and it can save a lot of time when couples are wondering what’s wrong. My husband and I experienced this from well-meaning people in conversation. When they knew we had trouble conceiving they said, “Oh, yeah, I know my friend Sarah had to take some hormones, and then it was fine.” Comments of that nature always assume the woman was the problem. It’s important to know what the status of both partners are to get a complete picture of conception chances.
- Not all labs are created equal.
According to Shady Grove Fertility’s website, “It is important to understand that the parameters laboratories use to judge the quality of sperm can drastically vary…Frequently, patients will come to us with a normal semen analysis and upon re-evaluation we find that the results are not accurate and male factor infertility is present after all.”
Some labs take 24 hours to analyze the sample, whereas Shady Grove Fertility analyzes them soon after getting the sample. They also use the human eye rather than just relying on computerized evaluation of the sample. It can be helpful to get a semen analysis from a fertility clinic in addition to an outside doctor or lab if your insurance covers it.
- There are options to improve conception chances.
For men, improving sperm quality in just a few months’ time can be possible with exercise, healthy eating, and reduction of alcohol intake. For more difficult cases, IUI or IVF can be performed. Moderate and severe cases may also use IVF treatment with the addition of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Here, a single sperm is injected directly into the center of the egg. This way, the sperm doesn’t have to find its own way to the egg.
Men facing infertility can feel the same feelings a woman does–anger, sadness, or guilt. With a complete picture of the male’s fertility as well as the female’s, steps can be taken to get effective treatment.