Infertility is already a touchy subject. And when it comes to male infertility, most men struggle to open up about it.
Learning that your body is contributing to fertility problems can feel like a gut punch. And if you're not careful, it can sink you into feelings of failure, and maybe even depression.
However, not dealing with it pushes your end goal — that sweet bundle of joy — even farther away. In fact, facing it head on may actually be your best approach.
Here are 5 truths and lies of male infertility about how to overcome it.
TRUE OR FALSE: It's rare for the man to be the source of fertility issues.
False: If you feel like you're the only man struggling with infertility, here's the truth: In nearly 40% of couples struggling with fertility, the male is one source of the issue, says the Endocrine Society.
So, you're not alone. You should also know that many men with fertility problems do eventually reach their goal of becoming fathers.
TRUE OR FALSE: It's time to see a specialist after one year of not being able to conceive.
True: If you've been trying to conceive for at least one year with nothing but negative pregnancy test results, it's probably time to see a fertility specialist, recommends the National Library of Medicine.
A reproductive endocrinologist or a urologist can best determine the possible cause of the problem.
Main Causes of Male Infertility
1: Unknown causes 40% to 50%; 2: Gonad disorder 30% to 40%; 3: Sperm transport disorder 10% to 20%; 4: Hypothalamic or pituitary disorder 1% to 2%
Source: American Pregnancy Association
The specialist will explore your full medical history and conduct a physical exam. She will want to know about anything that can reduce your fertility, reports the Urology Care Foundation. This may include:
- Health conditions
- Childhood illnesses
- Alcohol and recreational drug use
- Heavy metal or pesticide exposure
Your sex life is also fair game, since the specialist will need to understand how your body works during the act and your efforts to conceive.
A physical exam will be conducted to check for any issues with your penis, testicles, epididymis, and vas deferens.
The epididymis is a group of tightly coiled tubes that stores sperm and delivers it to the vas deferens. The vas deferens is a coiled duct that then delivers sperm when you ejaculate.
You may also undergo a semen analysis, says the Urology Care Foundation, which examines your sperm count, speed, and structure.
TRUE OR FALSE: Male infertility is not a true medical condition.
False: Infertility is in fact a medical condition, according to the National Infertility Association.
It stems largely from issues of sperm production — which are the most common — to ejaculation issues, says the American Pregnancy Association.
In a society that fully expects males to be virile with fully functional plumbing, male infertility can stir up feelings of failure, shame, and inadequacy, reports the National Fertility Association.
If you don't feel comfortable talking about this issue with family or close friends, other resources are available. Groups like the National Infertility Association offer online communities as well as support groups and professionals who can help.
TRUE OR FALSE: Only female infertility is treatable.
False: Guys, there's hope. Three options are available to treat male infertility, according to the National Institutes of Health:
- In vitro fertilization
The type of treatment offered for male infertility depends on the cause.
Surgery repairs a blocked area that transports sperm, explains the Endocrine Society. Medication can help increase sperm production, and antibiotics take care of infection. If the problem is hormone-related, hormone injections can also ramp up sperm production.
In vitro fertilization is when sperm is joined to the egg in a lab. The egg is then implanted in the woman's uterus, says the American Pregnancy Association.
If you have little or no sperm production, a sperm donor can also be used.
TRUE OR FALSE: You can prevent male infertility.
True-ish (in some cases): If you've had a serious illness, such as childhood cancer, or you have a genetic condition, male infertility may be unavoidable. Otherwise, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening.
Steps you can take to reduce your risk of male infertility, according to the American Society For Reproductive Medicine, include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Not taking illegal drugs
- Reducing stress
- Managing chronic medical conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes)
- Wearing boxers instead of briefs
The truth is that infertility is not your fault. It's a medical condition that requires honesty, patience, and an effective treatment plan.
If you're still having trouble getting pregnant, don't avoid the problem any longer. If you think you might be dealing with male infertility, schedule an appointment with a West Valley urologist.