Despite what we learned in school, humans are incredibly inefficient at reproducing. After 6 months of unprotected intercourse, 75% of couples will have conceived; that number increases to 83% after 12 months.
In most cases where a couple cannot get pregnant, it’s thought to be the woman’s fault; in actuality, up to 50% of infertility can be traced back to the man.
What can be done? Here are some simple tips from Dr. Kenan Omurtag for men so they can be involved, along with their partners, when infertility concerns start to creep in.
- Be supportive. Skip the platitudes
Even when said with the best of intentions in mind, saying things like, “Don’t worry. It will happen,” or “Just relax,” are not helpful when your partner is frustrated that yet another pregnancy test is negative.
Infertility is a shared struggle, and men and women cope with the struggle very differently. As a man, you are more likely to want to “fix” the problem along with the emotional distress infertility causes. Your partner, on the other hand, wants a shoulder to cry on. You might get frustrated with that and distance yourself from the situation, while your partner just wants to feel like she is heard.
When it comes to talking about the problem, less is more. It’s more important to just be emotionally available to validate your partner’s emotions and provide support. Don’t try to be Mr Fix It. Just be there.
- Be sympathetic to what your partner has to go through for testing and treatment
For you, the extent of your participation is limited to providing a sperm sample in a cup! It’s critical, though, to recognize how difficult it is for your partner and how tough she truly is. She will have to undergo multiple blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds during the infertility workup and treatment. She might even have a pelvic exam under an X-ray machine (called a hysterosalpingogram or HSG); this test is crampy and uncomfortable. It’s akin to the crampy and uncomfortable feeling you get when kicked in the testicles, except the feeling lasts for 15 minutes.
- Please, check your sperm
Almost 50% of infertility cases are traced to the man. But unlike women, who might have irregular periods, men don’t have any obvious signs of a problem. Delaying getting tested could indirectly reduce the chances of success with infertility treatments.
The good news is that men can test their sperm at home now. One kit I’ve seen is YO. It’s accurate, FDA and CE cleared and the video of your sperm is excellent. If there’s something wrong with your ‘swimmers,’ the app can tell you in about 10 minutes.
- Take care of your body, and your partner’s
Vitamins E and C may be helpful for optimizing sperm, so take a daily multivitamin. Stop the energy drinks and reduce caffeine intake. Stop smoking marijuana and cigarettes; surprisingly, marijuana is worse on semen than cigarettes.
Testosterone is definitely not your friend when it comes to making sperm. Using testosterone injections, creams or gels will stop your testicles from making sperm…so just don’t.
- It’s okay to share
Talk to friends and family you can trust. This journey can be a roller coaster ride. Obviously, your partner is a source of support, but you need other people to confide in. Don’t be afraid to speak to a reproductive counselor. Seeking support is not a sign of weakness. The fertility journey can be emotionally, physically and financially taxing. The trials and tribulations can be difficult, but don’t let it get to the point where it tears your relationships apart.
Just remember, you’re in this together and if you have questions, ask them. That’s what your fertility specialist is there for.