Breaking the Silence Around Male Infertility
By Kevin Ostrowski, MD, Urologist at EvergreenHealth Urology Care
Roughly one in seven couples experience challenges when trying to get pregnant and for half of those couples, the reason has something to do with male infertility.
If those numbers surprise you, you're not alone. Infertility, especially male infertility, is way more common than most of us think, and there's evidence suggesting it's only becoming more common.
One of the reasons many of us know so little about male infertility is because most of us spend our whole life trying not to get pregnant until we're ready to have a child.
Not to mention, hardly anyone talks about it unless it's with their partner or physician. As we celebrate Men's Health Month, I'll help share tips around men's fertility and what to do when you and your partner are having a hard time getting pregnant.
Establish a healthy lifestyle. You can increase your fertility by eating more essential fats, adding more Vitamin C and E into your diet, developing a regular exercise routine and reducing stress.
Cut back or quit unhealthy habits. By removing unhealthy habits from your life like smoking, heavily processed foods and cutting down or eliminating marijuana use, you can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Remember to relax. When you add the extra pressure of trying to find the optimal moment to try to conceive, your body can react to the added stress and create more barriers to conceiving a baby.
It's a process. Even for young couples, making a baby can take time. While it can change depending on your family planning goals, I recommend couples roughly 35 years old and younger try for a baby for about 6-12 months before going to see a urologist specializing in male infertility, though it's never too early to seek out information about your fertility.
Let's talk about it. If you and your partner are having a hard time getting pregnant, it could be time to have a chat with your urologist. This is a special opportunity for us health providers to help you on the path to bringing life into this world and is one of those amazing things we get to do as part of our jobs. We'll walk through any known family-related issues getting pregnant, any health concerns like procedures you've put off as well as any known or potential genetic disorders.
Get tested, get informed. After an initial discussion, we'll likely do a physical exam, which helps us rule out certain overarching issues that could be affecting your fertility. We'll also do a semen analysis, which gives us an idea about your fertility potential and your options in the event you need treatment. Additionally, there are some other tests we can do that look at your testosterone levels, your hormonal health and how the brain is stimulating your reproductive system.
Know your options. If you need treatment, you and your urologist will come up with a personalized plan that works best for you. There are a number of surgical and non-surgical options depending on your situation. For instance, if you and your partner are unable to conceive naturally, there are procedures that involve extracting sperm like in vitro fertilization, when your sperm and your partner's egg are joined outside the uterus, and intrauterine insemination, when your sperm is placed directly in your partner's uterus.
What's good for you is good for your fertility. The data is still imperfect on what exactly causes infertility in men, but we know that looking after your overall health is the best way to increase your fertility odds. A healthy diet, regular exercise and strategies to reduce stress are ways to improve your fertility no matter your age.
If you're interested in seeing a urologist about your fertility, visit EvergreenHealth Urology Care to make an appointment.