When you read about fertility problems, it’s nearly always women who are speaking out and telling their stories, but I’ve been really heartened to see that more and more men are opening up about their experiences of fertility tests and treatment. This article by Dan Rookwood in the Evening Standard is a great example.
Dan makes it clear that it isn’t just women who find it difficult when other people announce their pregnancies, that it isn’t just women who feel the disappointment when every period comes, that it isn’t just women who come to dread that question about when they are going to get around to having children… And anyone who has struggled with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and who has been told that being less stressed might help will know exactly where Dan is coming from when he says that “nothing stresses you out more than someone who can’t give you any definitive answers telling you not to stress out“.
It’s a great article and well worth a read – it’s really important that we start to realise that fertility problems affect men just as much as they affect women.
One small quibble though – Dan says that he and his partner opted to transfer two embryos in order to “double our chances of success“. It is very important to be aware that although it may feel that way in fact putting back two embryos most definitely doesn’t double your chances of success – it just increases your chance of having twins. Dan explains that he and his partner began their treatment in the US, and if that’s where they had their IVF, it would explain this entirely as not all clinics in the States are as concerned as we are here in the UK with reducing multiple pregnancy. Here, a team would usually recommend single embryo transfer for a first IVF cycle if the embryos were good quality. Although we all know twins who are fine, many others are not – and multiple pregnancy is the biggest health risk from IVF, which is why it is so important to choose a fertility clinic which has a good success rate combined with a low multiple rate.
You may have heard about recent research suggesting that boys born after ICSI were likely to have lower sperm counts – and you may have been concerned about it. If you were, you may find this commentary from Bionews by Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, who is one of the country’s leading sperm experts, reassuring.
There has always been a question about the future fertility of males born using ICSI, and it had been suggested that they might inherit their fathers’ fertility problems. The latest research has found that the sperm of ICSI-conceived men is of lower quality than average, but when fathers have particularly poor sperm quality this doesn’t seem to be passed on to their sons. You can read Professor Pacey’s interesting commentary on the subject here.
The brilliant NHS Choices also has a commentary on the research behind the headlines, and you can find that here.
Fertility Network UK is holding an online session on male fertility problems on 29th September at 8pm. The guest speaker is Dr Sheryl Homa, a clinical scientist and andrology specialist.
Sheryl’s talk will focus on male fertility problems and this will be followed by the usual Q & A session afterwards. The session will last for about 45 minutes. If you would like to join the group, you can email our to Hannah who will give you all the details firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this week, I found myself talking to an audience of mainly middle-aged (and above) men about living with fertility problems and the fabulous work Infertility Network UK carries out to support people who are having trouble conceiving. I wasn’t sure how the talk would go down, but they seemed genuinely interested – although when it came to the questions afterwards they admitted it wasn’t a topic most of them had ever talked about or would know how to talk about. There was a definite element of embarrassment at one point when I started to waffle on about sperm donation!
One of them asked about men and fertility problems and specifically whether I thought men found it difficult not to be able to have children. They were quite surprised when I said I thought that men found it just as hard as women not to be able to have children, but that it was often more difficult for men to talk about it. For most women, talking to close and empathetic friends about fertility problems can be a real source of support but for men, discussing a fertility problem with their friends is just something most don’t do.
I’ve often wondered how best to offer more support to men as the existing support networks women use don’t seem to work for men. In all my years running support groups, I’ve seen dozens of women who’ve come along without their partners, but you don’t get men coming by themselves – although those who are there with their partners can find it really beneficial. Online forums for men don’t get used much either.
I’ve asked men what sort of support they’d like, and usually get a shrug of the shoulders – but I’ve come across a few men recently who are writing about the subject in books and blogs – like Glenn Barden who wrote a guest blog for Fertility Matters a while back. I’ve just been in touch with another guy who has written a new book about fertility problems from the male perspective which I’ll review here once I’ve read it – but in the meantime if anyone has any other useful links or suggestions, do post them below!