Infertility: Not Just a Battle for Women

When infertility is discussed, often it’s the battery of tests and treatments women face that is discussed the most. What many do not realize is that infertility can also affect men.

In fact, according to the support group RESOLVE, one-third of infertility can be attributed to male factors, with another third being attributed to female factors. In addition, 20 percent of cases of infertility are unexplainable, and “the remaining 10 percent of infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners,” RESOLVE explains.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, common causes of male infertility are “azoospermia [no sperm cells are produced] and oligospermia [few sperm cells are produced]. Sometimes, sperm cells are malformed or they die before they can reach the egg.”

“In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality,” ASRM added.

Sperm analysis is one of the tests a fertility specialist will recommend to a couple when they have been trying to conceive for a while. That analysis tests for volume of ejaculation, sperm concentration, sperm motility (how well the sperm move) and sperm morphology (the size and shape of the sperm).

And if the cause of a couple’s infertility is found to be a male factor or a combination, there is still hope.

Treatments can include extracting sperm from the testicle to be injected into an egg or even washing sperm to be used during alternative insemination processes. A fertility specialist or the male partner’s urologist can make recommendations based on what the sperm analysis reveals.

In vitro fertilization has helped many people become pregnant. Dr. Alfred Rodriguez, a fertility specialist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano who has been performing IVF in his practice since 1987, says many causes of infertility can be overcome with the procedure, including male factors.

The road to pregnancy via IVF isn’t easy, which is why Rodriguez recommends couples talk about the work involved before embarking on it.  “They must be willing to accept the time, emotions and expense involved with treatment,” Rodriguez said. “And both partners must be committed to the process.”

RESOLVE, a national infertility group, says support groups aren’t just for the female partners going through fertility treatments. “In many cases it appears that men are not as willing or as able as their female partners to talk about their experience,” the group says. “Perhaps this is because we traditionally think of children as a woman’s province, or because over the ages, conception has been thought of as the woman’s responsibility.”

“Absolutely, men typically deal with things differently than women, but 30 percent of infertility cases are due to a male factor,” said local RESOLVE member Heather Kaplan-Weatherly.

“Husbands also need support — it’s a relief to know you’re not facing it alone,” added fellow local member Stacie Tatum. “Infertility is terribly isolating and finding people who really understand and who can relate to what you’re going through makes you feel much less alone.”

To find the closest RESOLVE support group near you, check here or call 866-NOT-ALONE (866-668-2566). For more information about the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services and other infertility programs offered by Texas Health Resources, contact your preferred hospital or call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

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