Too often, advice on infertility is aimed solely at the woman who is trying to conceive and men are frequently sidelined when advice on achieving family goals is given. Yet men are just as likely to suffer from fertility problems as women. 40% of infertility cases are the result of a male problem, and 30% the result of a female problem (a further 20% are due to a combined problem, while 10% are ‘unexplained,’ where testing yields normal results).
Just as men are an essential part of the reproduction process, so too are they an essential part of infertility treatment. There are a number of ways that men can be involved, as outlined below.
Testing and treatment
When a couple is trying to conceive, testing both partners is the fastest way to identify potential problems. For men, that testing starts with a semen analysis. This assesses the quantity and quality of the sperm. Men who are due to have their semen analyzed should refrain from ejaculating for two to four days prior to the testing.
Should the semen analysis prove abnormal for any reason, the testing will be repeated. The man will also undergo a thorough physical examination, along with consideration of lifestyle issues such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity, all of which can impact on a man’s ability to reproduce.
Hormonal testing can also be undertaken, with medical and hormonal remedies discussed in light of the results.
A range of medical procedures are available for men with specific fertility problems. These include:
Sperm banking can also be a part of the process. Semen is collected, cryopreserved and stored for future use during fertility treatment.
Male partners also play a vital role in the psychological side of infertility treatment. Fertility problems, no matter their cause, can weigh heavily on a couple. By opening up about their feelings, men can work with their partners to build a supportive environment in which both parties are able to express their emotions and receive the support they need. Both men and women can struggle with this.
Counseling can be an extremely helpful tool for men (and women) experiencing infertility. Undergoing counseling sessions as a couple can help both parties to understand and process their emotions, while ensuring that the bond between them is strengthened.
In instances where the fertility problem lies with the woman, there is still plenty that male partners can do to be involved. Simple gestures like driving their partner to her appointments and making sure that they attend each one with her can ensure that couples feel they are working through the treatment process together, and that both are doing all they can to achieve their family planning goals.
The same is true of lifestyle changes. Men whose partners are giving up smoking or alcohol, changing their diet or starting a new exercise regime can join in to show their support. The goal is to face each challenge with a healthy solution as a couple.
Male partners can also offer help with medical elements of the IVF process, such as assisting their partner with subcutaneous injections.
Even a quick trip to the pharmacy to collect a prescription is a way to show support and stay involved in the process.
Treatment for infertility is something that affects couples deeply in many ways. The more involved male partners are, the more a couple can feel like they are working through a problem together in order to achieve a shared goal. Men should never have to feel sidelined as part of such an important journey.
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