Coping with the challenges of male infertility

By Jennifer Florendo

When you are trying to get pregnant, it can often feel like everyone around you is pregnant, except for you. Whether it’s your sister, your sister-in-law, your best friend or the majority of your Facebook friends, no matter where you turn all you can hear is, “I am pregnant and you are not.”

While it takes two to tango, sometimes it just takes one to experience difficulty becoming pregnant. Fertility challenges can leave all parties feeling hurt and confused, but when your reproductive organs are ready to produce and his aren’t, how is your other half left feeling?

The news of infertility is devastating for both the man and the woman. However, when it affects a man and his manhood, it takes on a different emotional toll. Rocky was a patient treated at The Fertility Center of Las Vegas and recalls his experience of “hoping and praying that the challenges with becoming pregnant” weren’t his fault.

“It made me feel like less than a man. I am the oldest of my siblings, and I have brothers who already had kids. It (fertility) took over our lives until the baby was born. But once that happened, it took away all of those feelings.”

There are many causes to male infertility; smoking, alcohol, drugs, environmental hazards, inadequate vitamin levels and even excessive stress are just some contributing factors. Modifying these behaviors can improve a man’s fertility and his current lifestyle should be considered when trying to achieve pregnancy. Healthy standards of living can contribute to healthier sperm production; however, taking your daily vitamins isn’t always the solution to the problem.

Sperm disorders are one of the major causes of male infertility. While millions of sperm are released during ejaculation, only a few hundred actually have the chance to fertilize a woman’s egg. Determining if the sperm will not only reach the egg, but also have the ability to fertilize it depends on a variety of factors: the number of competent sperm that can “swim”; the quality of movement (some sperm may move more slowly than normal, or not at all); the shape of the sperm; the total number of sperm (low sperm count is the most common reason for male infertility); or the sperm concentration (there may be no sperm contained in the semen).

When a sperm donor is needed, the recipients are able to personally select the characteristics that best fit their desires; from similar backgrounds to hobbies to their physical traits, such as height, ethnicity, hair and eye colors.

Men who are unable to produce sperm of a high enough quality or are unable to produce sperm at all, as in the case of a vasectomy, have an internal conflict of their own. Whatever they choose to do will have consequences after the baby is born. “There are two approaches: One would be to reverse the procedure and sew back together the ends of the tube that was cut, and the other option is to go in with a small needle and get the sperm directly from the epididymus, or from the testes themselves, and take those sperm and inject the eggs with them,” says Dr. Shapiro of The Fertility Center of Las Vegas.

In 2011, most men opted not to have another surgical procedure but to undergo in-vitro fertilization instead, considering what happens after the procedure. “That way, the men still have contraception once the process is over,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro shares another considering factor: the success rate with a second surgical procedure. “There is a high failure rate with the surgical procedure depending on the time period involved of when the vasectomy was first done and when the reversal is attempted. Sometimes they scar and can make the procedure problematic.”

Fertility challenges are often split between the male and the female with 40 percent of challenges coming from the man, 40 percent of challenges coming from the woman and the other 20 percent is a combination of both partners. Shapiro finds that the emotional factor is often shared equally among both partners. “In my experience it is very equal. When people first find out that they are going to have problems passing along their own genetic material, it is not a very big deal to some. But to others, it is quite important to them, and to some it is quite a shock. They get over it after time and proceed to a solution.”

For most, all of the emotions and frustrations of conceiving the baby disappear once the baby is placed safely in their arms.

The Fertility Center of Las Vegas

Dr. Bruce S. Shapiro, MD, Ph.D., FACOG

Dr. Said Daneshmand, MD, FACOG

8851 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 100

Las Vegas, NV 89117