Times may have changed for gender expectations but still, no man wants to be told something isn’t working quite right.
Suddenly what you thought was a natural part of life has become an issue and, let’s face it, that can turn what should be a pleasure into pressure.
The good news is that a couple’s inability to get pregnant can often be relatively easily fixed. For a large proportion of couples, it may simply be a matter of the timing of intercourse or greater frequency. Okay, it’s not the greatest thing for romantic spontaneity but, with a little patience and good humour, it’s not a disaster!
For others, there may be additional factors contributing to the inability to fall pregnant. At Life Fertility, we don’t like to talk about whose ‘fault’ it is – there is no ‘fault’, just highly complex bodies that don’t always function exactly how we’d like them to – and we’re here to give you the best possible chances of a family.
Male issues that can affect fertility include
Frequency and timing of intercourse
Eggs only survive for up to 48 hours after ovulation (release from the ovary) and must be fertilised by your sperm within that time. Infrequent intercourse may well miss the relatively small window of opportunity. If your partner has regular 28-day periods, and count the first day of her period as Day 1 of her cycle, ovulation will normally happen between Day 12 and Day 16. Irregular periods will make ovulation harder to predict.
A semen analysis can help determine if you have any problems with the number, movement or shape of sperm. If you sperm count is low or sperm are otherwise sub-optimal in some way there can be many causes including, genetic factors, environmental and lifestyle factors. Please see our fact sheets for more details.
Low fertility can result from hormonal abnormality including problems with the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. Low testosterone and other hormonal problems have a number of possible underlying causes. Your semen analysis results can help find out if there are any problems with the number, movement or shape of your sperm.
Vas deferens blockage
Damage as a result of infections or other injury may prevent the sperm from travelling through the vas deferens (the tubes that take sperm from the testes to the urethra) and the result is that there are no sperm in the semen. In rare cases, the vas deferens may be missing or the the ejaculate may divert into the bladder. Treatments may include antibiotics, surgery or extracting sperm directly from the testis for use in treatment.
Occasionally men are found to have no sperm in their semen for reasons other than blockage of the vas deferens. This is relatively rare and can simply be due to a failure to ejaculate. It can however be due to a failure of the testes to produce sperm. The testes may have been damaged due to a poor blood supply, injury or even a case of adult mumps. Other causes include hormonal imbalances and genetic defects.
Our fertility treatment always starts with testing both the man and woman to see if there are any obvious problems that are preventing pregnancy. It may be one or both partners that have a condition that is making things difficult.
Different men approach all this differently – some like to get their head around the science and others are happy to be guided by our fertility specialist.
These are the initial tests you’ll undertake
We test for testosterone levels and any problems with the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, which can contribute to hormonal imbalances.
This is a test that many men seem to dread, but it’s actually a very simple process. Analysis of your sample looks at sperm count, motility and shape of semen to identify any problems. Read more in our fact sheet.
If your semen test results show there is no sperm in your semen, you may need other physical investigations to identify blockages.
When you and your partner have been tested and diagnosed, our fertility specialist will recommend strategies for you and discuss the best ways to achieve a family.
If some of the contributory factors come down to your body, there are many ways we can improve the situation and give you the maximum chance to father your own child.
These are some of the options available to men
Low male fertility can come down to lifestyle factors. Excessive alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs, poor nutrition, environmental toxins and tight underwear can all have an effect. Improving these aspects and more frequent intercourse may be all it takes to achieve results.
This procedure is often one of the first treatment choices if there is moderate reduction in the characteristics of the semen. It involves extracting and concentrating the swimming sperm from the the semen in the laboratory and then placing them directly into the uterus using a small catheter. It is often used in conjunction with ovulation induction to give couples the best chance of successful conception. Read more in our fact sheet.
ICSI – Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection
ICSI is best practice IVF for couples where the number of active sperm available is not ideal. In conventional IVF, the eggs and sperm are mixed together in a dish and the sperm fertilises the egg ‘naturally’ – but this requires a large number of active, healthy sperm. With ICSI however, a single sperm is picked up with a fine glass needle and is injected directly into each egg so the number of sperm required is much lower. Read more in our fact sheet.
If you are working away from home for long periods in the armed services, on FIFO contract or for other reasons, we can store some semen samples. With your consent, these can be used in treatment for your partner if you are not available . Read more in our fact sheet.
PESA and TESA
Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) and Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) are surgical procedures that may be used to retrieve sperm directly from the testis if you do not have sperm in your ejaculate. They are performed with a very fine needle under local anaesthetic or sedation. Read more in our fact sheet.
It is usually easier to retrieve sperm using PESA and TESA than to undergo a complete vasectomy reversal but ask your fertility specialist for further advice.
In the rare cases where it is impossible to retrieve viable sperm, you and your partner may want to consider donor sperm. This can be from a family member or an anonymous donor from our donor sperm program. Please discuss this with your fertility specialist, who will give you more details.
Donating your sperm for others
You may be considering donating sperm to someone that you know. We can provide advice and guide you through this process. Please see our fact sheets for more details.
It’s very common for men to feel somewhat threatened and uncomfortable if they need to come to a fertility clinic. If your body is contributing to the difficulty in getting pregnant it can be even worse and you may feel as if you are letting your partner down.
Even in the ‘best case scenario’ you may need to have sex on certain prescribed days, which can change the dynamic and dampen your enthusiasm somewhat. And your partner will be going through her own emotional ups and downs too.
At Life Fertility we offer a range of counselling and extra support to help you through the challenging times, so please make the most of these opportunities.
Our support services include
Free counselling service
We offer you a free counselling session with one of our fertility counsellors for each cycle of IVF. You can come along with your partner or individually to talk through the issues and get strategies to cope more effectively with your reactions.
Nursing support team
Our Life Fertility Clinic Nurse Coordinators are available to discuss any problems you’re experiencing over your treatment. They are available by appointment or by phoning the clinic. Whether it’s a quick chat to check what you’re feeling is normal or an opportunity to ask about something worrying you, it’s good to know there’s someone who understands your situation and has the time to talk things through with you.
Health and wellness program
Although it can be hard to find time to focus on yourself, healthy nutrition, physical fitness and relaxation techniques can help manage stress and maximise your chance of pregnancy. Life Fertility offers discounts on various classes and a range of complimentary classes and sessions to make sure you are your best self for coping with the challenges of becoming a parent. Learn more about this program.
Other support groups
We can provide you with links to other organisations such as ACCESS – Australia’s National Infertility Network. ACCESS is a non-profit organisation committed to being a national voice in promoting the well-being and welfare of infertile couples.