Fertility is often approached from a female point of view, even though it takes both healthy eggs and sperm to make a baby. Much of the emphasis on fertility is approached from the woman’s perspective. This is because a woman must not only play her part in fertilization, she must also carry the baby to term in an environment conducive to healthy fetal development. A woman’s age, weight, stress, diet, and lifestyle choices are discussed in detail to provide every opportunity for a healthy pregnancy. However, missing from the equation are the contributing male factors. Although a male factor is involved in 50 to 60 percent of couples with fertility issues, there still seems to be a lack of awareness about the factors that affect male reproductive health.
Learning the Factors
A recent Canadian study of 700 men representing various ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds revealed that they were unable to identify many of the factors that can contribute to infertility. While most men understood the link between cancer, smoking, and steroids to a lower sperm count or motility, they were not as aware of factors like obesity, hot tubs, and using a laptop in the lap.
There are many stories about men in their seventies and even their eighties who father children. However, the biological clock is not just an issue for women. Austin male fertility specialist, Dr. Parviz Kavoussi says that as men age, the quality of their sperm can decline. The study Fertility and the Aging Male published in Urology indicates that aging impacts men’s sexual function, sperm quality and fertility. Australia’s national health site offers the following statistics: A man who is 25 can get a woman pregnant in under 5 months as an average. A man who is 40 takes an average of 2 years. This risk can increase fivefold once a man turns 45.
One of the biggest difficulties that infertile men face is the fact that male infertility is simply not studied as often as female fertility. Since the fertilization must happen inside of a woman, the conditions of the uterus and the quality of the egg tend to be the focus for many researchers. However, motility and sperm quality play a vital role in the successful fertilization of an egg and the creation of a viable embryo.
A Paired Approach to Successful Fertility
Understanding the role that many men have in the fertility process is an important part of making a better choice for fertility treatment. Even if one member of a couple has clear fertility issues that can reflect the reason for unsuccessful conception, it is possible that there are issues with both the man and the woman. Education about the kind of lifestyle choices that can increase sperm count and motility, strategies to overcome low sperm count, and vasectomy reversals are all important pieces of the fertility puzzle.
When a couple enters a fertility clinic together to try and optimize their chances, they are more likely to get a full picture of their fertility chances. A woman will be seen by a reproductive endocrinologist and a man will be seen by a reproductive urologist. This gives their doctors a chance to consider the big picture and to make smart, strategic choices to help the couple attain their goal of successful fertilization and a healthy pregnancy.