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We Need to Talk About Sperm: Addressing Men’s Fertility

Written by Mr Stephen Gordon for Doctify

Female fertility is everywhere. You can barely catch a tube without being inundated with ads for IVF clinics. Every other YouTube video is prefaced with a nauseating clip of two blemish free women discussing how efficient the pregnancy test they just took is. Blue liquid is constantly being poured onto sanitary pads on our television sets, intercut with women playing tennis or dancing in parades without fear of leakage.

What I’m trying to say is, a woman’s fertility is part of the daily conversation about what it means to be female. Women are offered help on every front, prioritising a woman’s desire to have a baby. But where are all the desperate potential fathers out there? Aren’t they worried that they may not be able to hold up their end of the bargain? Where is their reassurance and support?

It could have something to do with the fact that a man’s fertility is often considered a taboo subject. Some consider being unable to father a child a failing, a loss of masculinity, which it absolutely is not. It is a medical issue, pure and simple and one that can often be helped. Here to take us through it is top Doctify Urologist Mr Stephen Gordon.

When do most men realise something might be wrong?

As a Urologist with a special interest in men’s health and fertility problems, many men come to see me when they and their partner are trying to have a baby. Often, a “simple” sperm test has suggested a problem. Most men don’t feel unwell and have never considered that there could be anything wrong. They may never even have had any contact with medical professionals. As a result, there is a lot of misunderstanding about semen analysis results and what they mean.

What does semen analysis tell us?

It is important to explain what a semen analysis measures but also what it doesn’t. Most couples appreciate the opportunity to at least discuss this and find out whether any further tests are required to help explain the problems they are facing. It is also helpful to know if there are any treatments available, taking into consideration the woman’s situation and implications for both partners. Problems include abnormalities with the sperm, or even not finding any sperm at all.

Some men have problems with sexual function and often will have difficulty discussing them. Underlying health issues are discussed or even diagnosed. IVF treatments may be discussed but it is often not the first choice and is not the ideal option for many people. If the male partner’s situation can be optimised this can help improve both natural and IVF pregnancies and may even reduce the chance of a miscarriage.

What affects male fertility?

There are many contributing factors that can impact fertility:

  • Sperm temperature
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Diet, weight and exercise
  • Stress

Asking for help is the most important thing

It is an interesting time scientifically as we gain a greater understanding of men’s health. New tests may help identify issues that relate to not only pregnancy but also miscarriage and long term development of the child.

As a father and husband I know of the desire for children as well as the loss and despair of miscarriage. A recent patient sent me this note, “Thank you for giving us the time to listen to our concerns and honestly helping us with our options. I struggled with what I was told by the GP and fertility clinic and felt so left out of the decisions being made. My family and friends didn’t really understand and actually I didn’t want to tell them everything. I’m delighted to let you know we are now 8 weeks pregnant, early days, but I don’t think we would ever have got here without you.”



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