Male fertility factor

Save time and stress by visiting your GP as a couple for your first fertility consultation. Fertility Coach, Lisa Marsh explains why you should consider male factor fertility from the start.

Male Fertility

About 70% of male infertility is treatable and in some case can be avoided. Photograph: Ingrid Taylar

Male factor fertility

When women don’t conceive as planned, their initial reaction is to worry about their own fertility. Men, who may be less aware of their reproductive system than women, can jump to the same conclusion.  However, male factor infertility accounts for approximately 40% of primary infertility cases and another 10% in which they and their partner both contribute to their inability to conceive.  You can save valuable time by acknowledging this possibility right from the beginning.

Fertility not virility

If your male partner is reluctant to participate in medical investigations, it may be because of the overlap in definition of the terms fertility and virility. While fertility is defined as “the state of being fertile; capable of producing offspring,” virility confusingly points to manly character and masculine vigor, as well as the “masculine property of being capable of copulation and procreation.”  As a result, a man might think that compromised fertility brings his masculinity into question.

This harks back to our caveman ancestors, when the ability to procreate ensured survival of the species, but it certainly doesn’t apply anymore. You can help your partner past these outdated ideas by encouraging a non-judgmental attitude of shared responsibility for overcoming any fertility problems you may have as a couple.

Couple consultation

The first step is to include him in all of your medical consultations – Instead of visiting the doctor on your own, make an appointment to see him as a couple. Then, suggest that your partner provide a semen sample for analysis.

Male fertility test

This could save you many months of trying to conceive without success and speed up a referral to a specialist. It’s a fast, simple, non-invasive test that provides a lot of information.  Some men may balk at providing a semen sample in the clinical environment of a doctor’s office, but if this is necessary, he will be given private time and space. If the lab is on-site, he may be able to go home to the privacy and comfort of your own home, provided that he uses a sterile container provided by the doctor and delivers it back to the office immediately.

What the sample tells us

What they are looking for – The sperm sample is then analyzed for the following factors:

  1. The volume of the sample. Low volume of ejaculate could mean the sample is lacking essential amino acids, enzymes or other secretions that aid the fertilization process or it could signal a blockage in the semen’s path.
  2. The concentration of sperm, commonly called “sperm count.” A low concentration can signal a problem with the testicles or male hormones.
  3. The motility or movement of the sperm. Low motility or “slow swimmers” can keep the sperm from reaching the female reproductive tract and finding the egg.
  4. The form and structure of the sperm. Morphology looks at the percentage of normally shaped sperm in the sample. If the head of the sperm is misshapen, it may mean they do not contain the proper enzymes or other materials that are necessary to penetrate and fertilize the egg.

The good news is that, while an abnormal result in any one of these areas can impair the fertility process, much can be done by the man himself to improve his sperm quality. According to Dr. Marc Goldstein of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College in a recent Wall Street Journal article,

“about 70% of male infertility is treatable, and in about 25% of cases, it could have been avoided with greater awareness of the lifestyle choices that can harm sperm.”

Improve male fertility

  • Adopt a healthy diet, focused on high nutrient, whole foods;
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as excess fat produces estrogen and reduces testosterone;
  • Reduce exposure to toxins such as household chemicals and pesticides. Additionally, don’t use cling film on foods heated in the microwave;
  • Cool things down – Avoid hot baths and tight pants, as well as using a laptop computer directly on the lap. Testicles must be kept cool for optimum sperm production;
  • Stop smoking tobacco and/or marijuana;
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol;
  • Take a high-quality multivitamin;
  • Review all medications, as some commonly prescribed for high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach acid, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, enlarged prostate and baldness can lower the level of testosterone needed to make sperm; and
  • Reduce his level of stress.

Begin a dialogue in which all possible causes of infertility are being examined. The outcome affects both of you, so act as a team, or better yet, as a family, from the beginning.

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Photograph:

Ingrid Taylor

Ingrid Taylar

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