On making that initial appointment at a fertility clinic, it often doesn’t occur to couples struggling to get pregnant that it could be the male partner who faces fertility challenges. The media tends to focus disproportionately on women’s fertility issues and the slant towards a female-dominated conversation is often perpetuated by women, who are more open to sharing their stories about infertility.
The reality is that men’s fertility complications are at the root of a growing number of infertility cases. According to the World Health Organisation, male infertility is the cause of a couple’s failure to conceive in about 50% of cases.
Says Wijnland Fertility Clinic’s Dr Johannes van Waart; “Lifestyle, later family planning, stress and environmental factors are all playing a part in the rise of male infertility.” Van Waart also observes that men are not taught to observe the kind of fertility flags that women are familiar with.
A couple is potentially facing issues with infertility when they have had regular (twice a week), unprotected sex for more than a year without conceiving. Older couples or partners may take longer to fall pregnant as fertility decreases with age in both women and men.
Each male ejaculation contains between 210-525 million sperm. Some of these sperm will be abnormal but the rest wriggle towards the Fallopian tubes. However, in the end only a few hundred sperm will reach the female egg.
For optimal fertility, a couple should monitor the female partner’s basal body temperature. This means taking the female partner’s temperature at the same time each morning. Just before ovulation a woman’s body temperature drops slightly and this – added to the increased stickiness and volume of vaginal mucus –are signs that the female body is at its most fertile.
DON’T DELAY THE CHECK-UP
Should you become concerned about fertility, you may consider visiting a fertility clinic. Male patients are generally assessed for physical irregularities, related health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes and general physical well-being. A sperm sample is taken to better understand the efficacy of the semen and later on tests may be done on the sperm’s response to the female environment.
Men are often relieved to know that there are a host of treatments and procedures to turn to if fertility challenges are found. These range from changes to the occurrence and timing of intercourse to various artificial insemination techniques and IVF.
Dr van Waart urges male patients not to delay making a date for a consultation; “As with all fertility complications, time is of the essence, the younger the patient is, the more time we have to work with him towards a solution.”
MAKE THE CHANGES NOW
A commitment to supporting a child means that both parents should start taking better care of themselves from the moment they make a decision to try and have a baby. Improving on diet, and exercise and avoiding alcohol, tobacco and stimulants will not only increase your chances of conceiving but also set the tone for parenting.