With Father’s Day just around the corner, an important reminder: It takes two to tango! Men and women share equal partnership in conceiving a child. Roughly one-third of fertility issues are related to men, another third to women, and a third of fertility issues are either unexplained or related to both men and women.
No matter the diagnosis the important thing to keep in mind is that there are options. Here are 5 things you should do to help become a dad by next Father’s Day:
If your wife or female partner hasn’t been able to conceive a child, don’t wait for her to be tested first. Get a sperm test (“semen analysis.”) It isn’t hard to do. Just make an appointment with a nearby Sperm or Andrology Lab.
2: See a specialist.
You and your wife/partner are in this together. Joining her on visits to the fertility doctor is one of the best ways to show your support. No matter the diagnosis, there are always options. Recent advances in fertility treatments provide solutions for practically any type of male infertility. ICSI – direct injection of sperm into the egg, is successful in creating a child even in cases with extremely low sperm numbers. TESE – testicular sperm extraction – can provide just enough sperm to fertilize the partner’s eggs – even if the sperm count is zero! These are only two examples of what can be done.
3: What if the sperm test is normal?
Your sperm test came back normal and perhaps your wife’s testing did too, you may be part of a large group of couples with “unexplained infertility.” While it may be somewhat frustrating not to have a reason, treatment is highly successful and will most likely help you have a child.
4: Let’s Talk About Sex
Are there sexual issues you’ve been too embarrassed to discuss with your partner, the doctor or even... yourself? Many men have sexual problems, ranging from lack of desire to erectile dysfunction. These are almost always treatable. Couples with sexual dysfunction can have children with a little help. Improving and frequently resolving your sexual problems can give you and your partner much happiness.
5: What if the sperm test is abnormal?
If the sperm test is abnormal – the fertility doctor will review the test with you, and if necessary, refer you to a urologist specializing in male fertility.
So, what could be wrong? And if something is found is it treatable?
The most common problem found in men is varicocele – an engorged vein in one or both testes. This can be treated surgically, but not all varicoceles need surgery. Your urologist will help you determine the best course of treatment.
Another culprit for an abnormal test could be a simple infection, which can easily be treated with antibiotics.
An abnormal sperm test can also be caused by drugs. If you have been taking anabolic steroids (like testosterone), your muscles may be beefed up but your sperm count may dwindle to 0. You’ll have to ask yourself if you’d rather be a body builder or a father by next Father’s Day. If you stop the drugs, your testes will start making sperm.
Sperm is a mirror of a man’s health. Any substance abuse, smoking or illness, may compromise it. Improving your sperm may be predicated on making yourself healthier!
There are more rare causes for male infertility, including genetic problems and childhood mumps.
Remember, no matter the problem there are solutions. The first step in the solution of the problem is not to put your head in the sand. Recognize it and be proactive!
Avner Hershlag, MD serves as Chief of the Center for Human Reproduction, where he has cared for patients for more than 20 years and established successful programs, including: donor egg, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and egg freezing/fertility preservation.
Dr. Hershlag is a Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University. He also serves as an advocate for patient education and rights, serving on the Board of Directors for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.
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A special thanks to Dr. Avner Hershlag, Chief of the Center for Human Reproduction, for providing this guest post in honor of the upcoming Father's Day.