When you think of “infertility,” what comes to mind? We’d bet good money that a picture of a man is not the first thing that pops into your head.
Many people assume infertility is “caused” by a female partner, but the reality is that approximately 30% of cases are identified as male-factor infertility. And even more surprising, a recent study showed that only 41% of Ob/Gyn physicians even considered a urological evaluation of the male partner and only 24% would routinely refer men to the urologist before ordering a semen analysis.It’s so important to recognize that both partners play a role in the journey to parenthood, physically AND emotionally. Gone are the days of thinking “It’s her problem, I don’t need to be an active participant.” Many men who are diagnosed with male factor infertility, face an emotionally complex journey – feelings of guilt, anger, low self-esteem – not much different from the female whose femininity and self-worth are wrapped up in motherhood.
What Causes Male Infertility?
There are many factors that contribute to male infertility including structural abnormalities, sperm production disorders, ejaculatory disturbances, and immunologic disorders. These can be the result of physical, hormonal, genetic, or immunologic problems, a chronic illness, or a sexual condition. With so many possibilities no wonder it’s such a common cause of infertility. Most of these issues result in no direct symptoms. This means many couples try for years until they see a fertility specialist and get tested. Speaking of testing, a semen analysis (SA), is the first step to see if there is male factor infertility. During a routine infertility work-up and examination, male partners will be asked to provide a semen sample to look at sperm count, motility, and morphology. We recommend this test for couples who have been trying to have a baby on their own for 6 months. Knowledge is power, and we want every couple to have a full picture of what is or could be going on for the best chances of success!
Advice for Fathers-In-Waiting
We asked STL Fertility patient, John, what three pieces of advice he would give a man on this fertility journey with his partner. John shared the following:
- Do your homework. Do your homework. Do your homework. It makes you feel a little bit more empowered when you walk into a consult with a little bit of background. I mean a lot of things are going to be thrown at you. Maybe you’re going to be thrown into genetic testing, flooded with paperwork, you know? Frozen sperm, frozen eggs, frozen embryos a lot of terms get thrown around so take notes.
- You’re going to be thrown with different procedures and potentially different biopsies that may need to be performed so educate yourself early. My wife and I would educate ourselves on a topic after she would read something, and then we would talk about it, and vice versa. Being engaged in the data and information made me more confident and a better partner in the process.
- Letting your partner know from your perspective that you are there to support them. You are there to provide any sort of help that may be needed with any of the injections, any of the, I mean, my wife and I, we had talks and walks just to kind of let her emotions out on what’s going on. And I think that that really helps because you’re not holding all that in.
Remember, no matter the cause, it is a journey you are on together. Educate and engage yourself in the process and you will feel more empowered – from the first consult to every following appointment. Let your partner know that you are there to support them. Feelings of disappointment, anxiety, and even “how could this be happening to me?” are completely normal. And these feelings are good to get out! You may want to remain strong for your female partner and not “show” your emotions, but finding an outlet for them whether that is in your partner, a friend, a family member or professional help will ultimately make you both stronger.
We are a family here at STL Fertility – and that means being proactive for our couples and advocating for both throughout the entire process.