Men's Part of Infertility – Even When They're Not Infertile
A lot of people helped write the information about men and healthy sperm that is below that now resides on our website. I was one of those people and I hope it’s helpful.
There are specific and targeted things that as the male partner in a heterosexual relationship you can do to improve your side of things when trying to conceive. Those are outlined below. Those actions are mainly directed at your physical and genetic contribution to a healthy pregnancy– your sperm.
Beyond Sperm Count – How Infertility Affects Men Emotionally
Consider though, that the process of infertility and fertility treatment is not only about the physical. There are emotional reserves that most of us, men and women, need to dip into while dealing with the disappointments that occur regularly in fertility treatment. There is receiving unexpected news about IUI or IVF procedures or testing schedules. There are cancelations and there are frustrating delays due to many different factors, including ones that may feel like our fault.
There is shame and guilt, often, when trying to conceive, even if it’s not directly about the infertility.
And while you may experience one thing, your partner or spouse may experience something very different. Consequently, what you may need may be very different than what your partner or spouse may need.
We have choices when it comes to infertility.
Suggestions on Improving Male Fertility & Finding Support
One choice is to pull together as a team. Some suggestions:
- Check in with each other regularly. Decide what regularly means to each of you.
- Support each other in the way that you are being asked to do so, rather than the way that you may think is best. (Blog post on this later this week!)
- Find professional help when it’s too much for either of you. And don’t wait for a breaking point. It’s great to get help BEFORE you feel completely overwhelmed. Lisa Schuman, LCSW and Melissa Kelleher, LCSW are both compassionate counselors deeply rooted in helping with fertility issues and are available at RMACT.
- Make changes in your relationship so that you each can count on one another without exhausting the other one.
- Avail yourself of the services that can help with stress- Amy Matton, MS, LAc, Jing Zhang, MS, LAc and Elaine Malin, MTCM, L.Ac- RMACT certified fertility acupuncturists can help each of you.
- Find out about seeing Carolyn Gundell, MA- RMACT’s nutritionist and see if adjusting your food choices and lifestyle can make a difference.
- Move outside of your comfort zone, at least occasionally and see if there is something out there, maybe very unexpected that can help. (Paddle boarding? A one day cruise? Car races?)
- Fertile Yoga– People. Not just women. Not just couples. Even if you think it will only be helpful for your partner or spouse, does it hurt for you to join her? To remind her that you are in this together and that you are there for her. Free and open to the public, what have you got to lose?
Mainly, you came into fertility treatment because you had a relationship that was strong and sturdy enough, loving enough, to want to enlarge your family to include a baby. Infertility can find the cracks and enlarge them and even cause them to split wide open. That’s what we all want to avoid. We want to help you find ways of smoothing those cracks out and making them less important and stronger.
We can help you find ways to make that happen. That’s why we are here.
You have a larger part of the process in making a stronger relationship and family than just your healthy sperm.
But that’s a really good place to start. ~ Lisa Rosenthal
Male Infertility Causes & Treatments
For men, fertility pretty much hinges on having healthy sperm, so semen analysis is the most important test for the male half of a couple that is experiencing fertility issues. It is an inexpensive test that should be done early in any infertility evaluation.
Usually two or more semen samples, taken at separate intervals, are analyzed because it’s normal for sperm counts to fluctuate. The analysis requires abstinence for two to three days. The specimen is collected directly into a clean container.
The semen sample is examined in a laboratory for quantity, color and the presence of infections or blood. Then a detailed sperm analysis is done to determine the number of sperm present and any abnormalities in their size, shape and structure (morphology) and movement (motility).
Low Sperm Count
Low sperm count is also called oligospermia. Theoretically, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg, but the odds of one sperm reaching the egg are very low. Consequently, a low sperm count reduces a man’s chances of fathering a child. An urologist can suggest medical or surgical treatments to increase those odds, and men are advised to avoid smoking, excessive drinking and illegal drugs, maintain a healthy weight, and stay out of sources of excessive heat (like tubs and saunas) that can temporarily reduce sperm count.
Both morphology and motility are factors in male infertility because they impair the sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize an egg. Some causes of abnormal morphology are infections, high fever, congenital testicular abnormalities, varicocele (enlarged veins in the scrotum) and illicit drug use. Again, an urologist can recommend treatments that can improve morphology, including treating an infection, varicocele repair and hormone replacement. Pregnancy may still be possible through intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization.
If sperm abnormalities are detected, the semen analysis can be repeated in four to six weeks to determine if they are permanent or temporary. If the sperm analysis is normal, your doctor will probably recommend a thorough testing of your female partner before considering additional male infertility tests.
Contact us for more information on semen analysis.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.