Men’s Health Month: A Look at Male Fertility Struggles

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Men’s Health Month is observed in the United States during June. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the goal of Men’s Health Month is to increase awareness of health issues, ultimately leading to early detection, treatment and improved outcomes. Male infertility is a health issue affecting a significant percentage of the male population.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.5% percent of men under the age of 45 report that they have been diagnosed with a fertility problem.  The Reproductive Medicine Group specializes in the evaluation and treatment of infertility.   Approximately 40% of infertility is attributed to male factors suggesting that male fertility struggles are very real.

Sometimes male infertility issues can be resolved through adjustments such as eliminating tobacco, alcohol, drugs, supplements, certain medications or use of hot tubs. Other times, tests such as semen analysis can shed light on potential problems that require specific treatments.  If a concern is detected, a consultation with a urologist specializing in male infertility is an ideal next step, especially if the couple had been unable to conceive after six months of unprotected intercourse.

“Male issues represent the sole etiology for infertility in 20% of cases and is a contributing factor in an additional 30-40% of instances where a couple is unable to achieve pregnancy.  Serious medical conditions are discovered in approximately 3% of men who are referred to a urologist for evaluation of infertility. Causes of male factor infertility include congenital and/or chromosomal abnormalities, structural issues including varicocele or stricture, malignancies, and endocrine disorders,” explained Dr. Howard Heidenberg, a board-certified urologist specializing in male infertility. “We recommend a comprehensive evaluation and assessment which is critical in determining the best pathway for the couple to succeed as well as address potential health issues.”

Regardless of the cause, it is important for men to know that they are not alone. In fact, over two million men in the United States are struggling with infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The combined physical and emotional impact of infertility can cause turmoil within a relationship and have significant emotional and psychological effects on men.  Similarly, men who have a partner struggling with infertility often feel as much suffering as their partner.

“Infertility affects the couple, not just the woman. Men will frequently feel the same pain as their wife or partner, but typically will not show it in the same way. Whereas women will display signs of sadness, excessive worrying or crying, men are likely to show symptoms of irritability, anxiety or anger. In some cases, they may escape into work, hobbies, alcohol or drug use, or gambling.  Women will frequently misinterpret their partner’s more stoic demeanor as not caring as much about having a baby, but this would be inaccurate. If either partner is experiencing these symptoms, they can be toxic to a relationship, and they shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask their doctor for the name of a competent counselor for support,” explained Kathy Fountain, LMHC, who specializes in fertility counseling.

What can men do to ensure that their fertility and health is at its best during Men’s Health Month and beyond? A diet rich in antioxidants and folic acid (found in colorful produce and whole grains), limited exposure to extreme heat, dyes, chemicals, and radiation, and avoidance of obvious health hazards such as tobacco, alcohol, gym supplements, and drugs, may improve male fertility, according to The Reproductive Medicine Group.

While male infertility can be difficult, with the proper care there is hope that it will eventually be a struggle of the past.  If you have questions or have experienced infertility, please join our conversation with comments or questions.

The Reproductive Medicine Group has been serving the Tampa Bay area for more than 30 years.  With offices in North and South Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater, they have helped thousands of couples overcome their infertility and achieve their dream of becoming parents. For more information, go to floridafertility.com.

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