Fertility & Pregnancy
Opening a conversation about sperm count and low motility with your hubby doesn’t quite cut the mustard for the best kind of pillow talk. Or really any talk. But if you’ve been struggling to start a family for a while now and feel like you need help, you should know that conception is equally influenced by the man and the woman and up to 40% of infertility cases are attributed to the male partner. Because the scales could really tip either way, it’s important that you and your partner both have yourselves evaluated to achieve a thorough diagnosis.
Before you step in to meet a fertility specialist, have a look at this list of commonly asked questions you’ve likely already asked yourself.
What Is Male Infertility?
Male infertility is a condition where male factors result in an inability to achieve successful fertilisation and therefore, conception. It can be influenced by low sperm motility or count, or diminished sperm motility. It can also be due to a blockage in the urethra.
What Are the Causes of Male Infertility?
There are various causes of male infertility. Some of the most common are highlighted below:
A structural blockage, partial or complete, may prevent sperm from reaching their final destination. A blockage such as this may be due to a congenital or acquired cause like infection or surgery.
When sperm are not able to effectively escape the urethra, the problem may be attributed to incomplete or inadequate ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation, a condition where the semen flows backwards is a common cause of ejaculatory disorders.
Inhibited Sperm Production
When sperm production drops, fewer sperm become available to effectively achieve fertilisation. Inhibited sperm production is a likely outcome of a vasectomy or a varicocele.
Endocrine disorders or antisperm antibodies can impede sperm from reaching and uniting with the egg.
Azoospermia can be of two types; obstructive and non-obstructive. In the former, sperm are properly produced but not released due to an obstruction. In the latter, the testicles do not produce any sperm at all or produce in volumes so low, that a standard semen analysis cannot detect them.
There Must Be Some Underlying Health Triggers to Male Infertility Surely?
There are. Abnormal thyroid or prolactin hormone levels can affect sperm function, although both of these can be overcome with a suitable treatment plan. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat cancer can sometimes cause irreversible harm to the testicles. That’s why many doctors recommend that men opt for sperm storage before embarking on any kind of cancer treatment.
How Is Male Infertility Diagnosed?
Male infertility is far easier to pinpoint than female infertility because it usually involves only a basic semen analysis. Most cases are tethered to compromised sperm function or production, and semen samples are tested for the concentration, motility and morphology of sperm, as well as the volume of ejaculation.
Will Infertility Impact Our Relationship?
It’s hard not to let a setback like infertility take a toll on you and your partner, however strong you are as a unit. Whether it’s you or him, it’s important to recognise that the hurdle ahead must be crossed by both of you together. Guilt is a common feeling among men struggling with infertility, especially when they see their wife struggling to navigate the feelings that come with not being able to conceive. A woman, on her part, may battle anger and guilt, knowing that it’s not her partner’s fault, but feeling helpless at the situation nonetheless. This endless cycle of hopelessness can put strain on a relationship, especially when neither partner is able to articulate their emotions. During such a time, it’s important to be caring and sensitive towards your partner. Infertility is nobody’s fault and you shouldn’t feel like you’re a victim. Pick a fertility centre that provides counselling. Also, a specialist who champions a tailored treatment plan for you can shorten the lead time to conception, so choose wisely. Sift through online reviews, schedule preliminary consultations and ultimately, go with your instincts.
Is Male Infertility Treatable?
There are several treatments available for male infertility, from longer drawn procedures like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to simpler ones like intrauterine insemination (IUI). Sometimes, hormone-stimulating drugs are also prescribed. The exact treatment suggested by your specialist will be in response to the diagnosis made.
By staying in the know of what to expect when you see a specialist, you can prepare yourself and your partner about conversations and questions that might arise. Discuss them beforehand, confide in each other and have each other’s back. The sooner you get to the problem, the sooner you can reach a solution.