Let’s Talk: Male Factor Infertility Quick Facts

Male infertility is a HOT topic. In fact, I saw record numbers of visitors to the site last week as I shared Cameron and Kristin’s story (if you are interested, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Male infertility is a topic that is not talked about very much…even more than female infertility. The reason it isn’t discussed is up for discussion and pointing fingers here or there, but regardless, I firmly believe that it is crucial to discuss it right along side female infertility!

I often have a hard time talking about it because I am not a man and because it involves words and terms that make even ME a little uncomfortable. BUT, in an effort to raise awareness, to offer resources, to encourage thought and discussion, and to educate, I have several things to share with you. This week and next week, I will share information, websites, stories, and give you an opportunity to share your thoughts and resources as well. Let’s make it more comfortable to talk about it…let’s make it so it isn’t so hard for men to find the information and comfort they need.

If you have a website recommendation, a book, useful information, or, even better, your story to share, please email me…
kerstin dot daynes at ldsinfertility dot org

For today’s post, let’s talk “Quick and Interesting Facts”…

This list is far from all-inclusive. It is simply a list of things I find intriguing as well as basic information that will help shed some light on male factor infertility. Hopefully it will be just enough to cause you to think and wonder…

  • Approximately 30% of the cases of infertility are caused solely by male factors. And, 30% of cases involve problems with both partners.
  • Risk factors for male factor infertility include (but are not limited to):
    • Smoking
    • Age
    • Exposure to chemicals or to heat; environmental issues
    • Genetic disorders or medical conditions (i.e. cystic fibrosis, Klinefelter’s Syndrome, cancer, diabetes)
    • Variocele
    • Sexually transmitted diseases
    • Prescription and non-prescription drug use
  • I have seen the varying diagnoses of male factor infertility fall into many categories. I like this short list, provided by fertilitylifelines.com: (go here for more information and examples for each category)
    • Sperm disorders
    • Anatomical disorders
  • Recent advancements in the medical industry makes it possible for many causes of male factor infertility to be treated and overcome.
  • Male fertility decreases slowly until around 40 years of age and then begins to decrease more rapidly.
  • The journey to fertilizing the egg is extremely long and arduous. Even healthy sperm have a hard time completing the task of fertilization. I remember a doctor at last year’s Utah Infertility Awareness Event saying that if we considered sperm the size of a human, the journey to fertilization would be like asking a human to swim from California to Japan. I can imagine very few humans would be able to make this journey. I share this insight with you so that we can keep all things in proper perspective. And, so that we can understand how important healthy sperm is in providing the best chances for fertilization.
  • When a couple cannot conceive after 1 year of timed, unprotected intercourse, and they desire to consider medical treatment, both husband and wife should begin the process of diagnostic testing. It can no longer be assumed that infertility is a female problem.
  • Infertility does affect men emotionally.

“…a significant proportion of infertile men do experience myriad psychological wounds, including low self-esteem, a loss of virility, a change in self-image, and a loss of sexual appetite. Just like his female counterpart, the infertile male experiences feelings of inadequacy, failure and guilt. One study found that 80% of 100 infertile men reported guilt feelings both about their perceived inability to prove their manhood and to fulfill their partners’ desires to have children. Infertile men suffer from episodes of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and anger. Their shame can lead to detachment from the marriage, causing breakdowns in communication and commitment. Secondary psychological disorders such as substance abuse, mood disorders and sexual dysfunction are not uncommon consequences. (theafa.org)

  • Coping with infertility is varied among men.

“Often they will overcompensate in the other areas of their lives that enhance their self-esteem and in which they receive lots of attention. For example, men may throw themselves into work, sports, or problem solving activities. Positive feedback from employers, teammates or others who recognize their accomplishments may ease the pain of infertility. Men may also engage in activities to improve their marriages as a method to compensate for their biological ‘failure.’ Engaging in problem solving activities related to infertility treatment, and planning for alternative family building strategies, can also be a means of coping. Some men turn to support groups to reach out to others for emotional comfort.” (resolve.org)

Sources: The American Fertility Association, RESOLVE, Fertility Journey (Organon), FertilityLifeLines

 

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  • Jill S.

    There is an interesting documentary that scales up a sperm to the size of a human and describes the journey from a human’s perspective. It is a little long, but you can find it on youtube.com if you search The Great Sperm Race. It does a great job describing the difficult journey required to fertilize an egg.

     
     
     
  • Thank you for posting this! I hope this will help make it easier to talk about too. Not being able to talk about it only increases the shame or guilt. There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s not *his* fault. It’s just the hand you’re dealt.

     
     
     
  • I agree, male infertility is not discussed enough. It doesn’t help much for the woman to focus on knowing her most fertile days without his being able to provide the other half. Nutrition is very important for our health, and fertility is no exception. True vibrant nutrition includes an abundance of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. The best sources are foods from healthy animals, eating their optimal diet, and vegetables grown in nutrient rich soils.

     
     
     
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