Looking at “Boyz Under the Hood” and male (in)fertility

It goes without saying, that expert guidance from medical professionals about your fertility is the only guidance you should be following, however, at times it can all feel a bit overwhelming. Sometimes you just need someone to “translate” and to explain things for you in a way that sounds familiar.

This is why we are so thrilled to have Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo on the IVF babble team. Jay is a writer, and a proud IVF mum and always manages to cover topics with energy and clarity. Here she helps to explain male infertility.

Can we talk about men for a second? Not the kind of talk where Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte exchange witty quips over brunch, but rather about men’s fertility.!

The sad reality is that 40% of men deal with infertility and it doesn’t matter if you’re called, “Mr. Big” or not. If you’ve been trying to conceive and not seeing any results that end in two pink lines, both partners should consider being seen by a doctor.

First, the basics

If you have been trying to conceive for over a year and the female partner is under 35 years old OR you’ve been trying to conceive for more than 6 months and the female partner is over 35, you should consult with a fertility doctor.

Historically, women have always been looked at first (as we have more complicated and annoying plumbing) but as we’re learning more and more, one-third of infertility cases are caused by male reproductive issues, one-third by female reproductive issues, and one-third by both male and female reproductive issues or by unknown factors.

Getting a fertility assessment (or dare I say, “looking under the hood”) can provide insight, direction and even the four-letter word: hope

A Reproductive Endocrinologist (which is a long and fancy way of saying “fertility doctor”) will review both of your medical history, perform a physical exam and in the men’s case – collect sperm to perform a semen analysis. Sperm analysis looks at three main things:

  • Sperm Count: How many boys are in the hood
  • Morphology: How the boys are shaped
  • Motility: How well the boys swim

There are several potential reasons for male factor infertility, such as:

Varicocele Issue. The varicocele (which sounds like a yummy Italian dish) is actually the swelling of the veins that drain the testicle (not sounding so yummy anymore, is it?). A varicocele causes an increase in the temperature of the testicles, which typically makes the sperm count drop. This is the leading cause of male infertility and is reversible.

This can have a negative effect on sperm production, the health of the sperm or even create scarring which could block the sperm from being released.

While this ALWAYS sounds to me like a Dr. Seuss character, it can be quite a difficult condition that means the absence of motile sperm in the semen. Some options to conceiving with this condition are having sperm surgically extracted (anyone else just cross their legs?) or if you and your partner are comfortable, sperm can be provided by a donor for artificial insemination.

While this all may sound terribly overwhelming and even scary, please take comfort that there are many options to family building

When your fertility assessment is complete, your doctor will present with you and your partner with what they feel is the best course of action to expanding your family. This could be intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), medication or surgery.

Some final pieces of advice

If you or your man has any pain or discomfort in his groin or testicular area, if he has a known fertility concern (he’s had an infection in his prostate or testicular area, he’s had cancer, treatment for cancer or took a medication that may have impacted his sperm), or has a known hereditary genetic concern that runs in the family such as Huntington’s Disease – you may not want to wait the 6 months to a year to be seen. Be proactive and consult with a physician just to be on the safe side.

While men may not always be as open or eager to talk about “their boys” or the possibility of an infertility issue, NOT talking about will not make the problem go away if one exists

Encourage him to be seen by fertility doctor… even if that means offering to be a “Samantha” for one night!

…and, just so that you have the advice from a doctor too, have a read through this article by the incredible Consultant Urologist Jonathan Ramsey.

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