Male Infertility: The Struggle is Real
You’ve been at if for more than 12 months, trying your hardest to make a baby with your partner. And while you’ve gotta admit it’s been kinda fun (wink), you’re starting to wonder why she hasn’t gotten pregnant yet.
Could it be you?
If your partner has already visited her doctor and determined her equipment down there is good to go, we need to turn the spotlight on you.
What is male infertility?
Pretty much, male infertility comes down to not being able to get your partner pregnant after a year of unprotected sex, and there’s lots of reasons why that might be (settle down, we’ll get to that).
But the first thing you need to know, is that you’re not alone.
“Infertility affects one out of 10 couples,” Darius Paduch, M.D., Ph.D., director of sexual health and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Men’s Health. “And in 30 percent of those cases, men will be the main reason.”
Of course, this might come as a surprise to you, because usually the focus seems to be on the woman’s inability to conceive. But according to the National Institute of Health, 30 percent of infertility issues can be pinned to the woman, 30 percent to the man and the remaining 30-something percent could be a combo of issues.
So, contrary to popular belief, the majority of infertility issues don’t stem from older women who’ve waited too long to try to conceive. It can affect anybody, at any time. Infertility does not discriminate, crossing racial, gender and economic barriers in its quest to keep you from conceiving.
How could this happen?
When a man can’t get a woman pregnant, it’s usually because something is preventing his sperm from making their way to the egg. There are a whole lot of reasons that might be happening, from what you’re eating to how much time you’re spending on your smartphone. Seriously.
Let’s break down some of the biggest causes of infertility:
- Varicocele: One of the most common causes of male infertility, it’s a problem that affects how the testicles work (remember: that’s where your sperm are stored), and varicoceles play a starring role. Think of it like a varicose vein in your leg, which causes blood to pool, and when that happens to your sperm locker, it throws the temperature off down there. And it doesn’t have to get too hot: even a one-degree difference can have negative effects on sperm production and testosterone function. According to the National Institute of Health, these enlarged veins are present in 40 percent of men with infertility problems, but the good news is that a varicocele can be addressed through a simple, outpatient procedure.
- Low sperm count: This might seem like an obvious one, but while it decreases your odds of getting your partner pregnant, you’re still producing sperm and still (kind of) in the baby-making game — just at a serious disadvantage. There are lots of factors that could be affecting your sperm count, like hormonal imbalances, diabetes, obesity and steroid use. SpermCheck is an over-the-counter male fertility test that measures your sperm count and is a lot easier – and more private – than a trip to a clinic to provide a sperm sample.
- Sperm quality: When it comes to sperm, quality is just as important as quantity. The shape and motility (ability to get around) of your guys is super important for the long journey they need to make to penetrate the egg. All sorts of things could be affecting your sperm health, including what you eat, the type of lube you and your partner are using and even, sorry guys, too much time spent on your smartphone. Good news, though: An Israeli study found that sperm quality peaks in winter and early spring and that low-stress weekends offer your best chances of success. Get cracking, dudes.
What to expect at your doctor visit
Your urologist will do a complete physical exam and make sure there’s nothing going on down there that could be hindering your fertility, like a varicocele, scarring or curvature of the penis (that’s a thing).
You’ll also produce a sperm sample (awkward), which will be tested for the quality and quantity of your little dudes. Your doctor will probably also perform a blood test to check hormone and blood sugar levels.
The struggle is real
All kidding aside, we know how difficult and frustrating it is to find yourself in the infertility boat. In fact, there’s a whole support network out there trying to remove the stigmas and barriers that stand in the way of building families.
Men’s Health Month (#MensHealthMonth) is the entire month of June, and Men’s Health Week this year is June 10-16, 2019. You can find all sorts of events, resources and support as you and your partner work to overcome infertility.
Anyone can be challenged having a family and there is the support and resources available to help you overcome those barriers.