Despite what we are told in middle school, humans are HORRIBLY inefficient at reproducing. After 6 months of unprotected intercourse, 75% of couples will have conceived – 83% after 12 months. Up to 50% of infertility can be traced back to a male factor. Below are some simple tips on how men can be engaged with their partners when infertility concerns start to creep in.
Listen, Be supportive, but skip the clichés
While prefaced with good intentions, responses like “don’t worry, it will happen” or “just relax” are not helpful statements 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. Men want to “fix” the problem and the emotional distress infertility causes their partners, but ultimately they cannot. Men get frustrated and might distance themselves while the partner just wants to feel like she is heard.
Less is more, perhaps. Just being emotionally available to validate your partner’s emotions and provide support is good place to be. Don’t try to be Mr. Fix It- just be there.
Be sympathetic to what your partner has to go through with testing and treatment
You just have to masturbate in a cup! Acknowledge how tough your partner is. She will 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, the same crampy and uncomfortable guys get when kicked in the testicles, except the feeling lasts for 15 minutes.
Please, check your sperm
Nearly 50% of couples struggling with infertility have a male factor.
Unlike women, who might have irregular periods, men don’t have any obvious signs of a problem with their sperm counts. A delay in testing could indirectly decrease the overall chance of success with fertility treatments.
There are even options now for men to test at home, such as the YO Home Sperm Test. 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. Definitely stop smoking marijuana and cigarettes, the former probably worse on semen parameters.
Testosterone is 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.
Its okay to share
Talk to your trusted friends and family. This journey can be a short roller coaster ride, or it can be a long one. Obviously your partner is a source of support, but you need other people to talk to. Don’t be afraid, if circumstances call for it, to ask to speak to a reproductive counselor. It is not a sign of weakness. The fertility journey can be emotionally, physically and financially taxing. The trials and tribulations can be difficult, so don’t let it get to the point where it tears your relationship apart.