Here’s Why The Truth About Infertility Might Not Be So Egg-citing
Infertility — the inability to conceive after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex — is a problem that befalls both men and women. However, cultural views and misinformation make way for women to bear the brunt of the issue. Because they are the biological sex in charge of carrying and delivering babies, many still believe that infertility is a ‘woman’s problem’.
Despite male infertility having been found to be the cause of a couple’s failure to get pregnant in at least 50% of cases, the social burden almost always “falls disproportionately on women”, says Dr Mahmoud Fathalla, former director of the Special Programme of Research, Development, and Research Training in Human Reproduction at the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Infertility is a Shared Burden
The result of these views? Women like Ann*, who hails from Uganda, are ostracised and isolated from their communities. After suffering from several painful miscarriages, Ann was told by her doctor that she would never be able to conceive. Ann was then subsequently banned from attending her father-in-law’s funeral, a shame she alone must bear. Childless women face discrimination all the time, and Ann is just one example of many.
It is important to keep in mind that infertility is not the fault of any one person. It is a complex issue that can have a number of causes beyond a couple. How do we change the perception that women are to be blamed for infertility issues and what can be done to shift the burden away from them? It’s simple — to challenge the stereotype that women are the reason behind not being able to conceive, we must consider that the husband is the one who might be infertile.
Other tests that may be done to check for male infertility include:
- Hormone levels: This test measures the levels of hormones that are important for fertility, such as testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Genetic testing: This test can look for genetic disorders that can cause infertility, such as cystic fibrosis or Klinefelter syndrome
- Scrotal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to create images of your testicles and scrotum. It can be used to look for abnormalities in the testicles, such as varicocele (enlarged veins in the scrotum) or testicular cancer
There are only two ways these tests can end — you are either healthy or you might be diagnosed with infertility. If you manage to fall in the latter category, fret not. There are a number of different treatment options available for you to turn to:
There are a number of medications that can help to improve sperm production or quality
Surgery may be an option to repair blockages in the testicles or to remove varicoceles
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART):
ART procedures, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), can help to achieve pregnancy even if you have severe infertility
How to Overcome Male Infertility
This can be a difficult and emotional experience. Here are some tips for how you can handle these issues:
- Talk to your partner. It is important to communicate with your partner about your feelings and concerns. Talking about your struggles can help you to feel supported and understood
- Seek professional help. If you are struggling to cope with this, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist or counsellor. They can provide you with support and guidance as you work through your emotions
- Get involved in a support group. There are many support groups available for men and women who are struggling with barrenness. These groups can provide you with a sense of community and understanding
- Educate yourself about infertility. The more you know about it, the better equipped you will be to deal with it. There are many resources available online and in libraries that can provide you with information about it.
- Never give up hope
Let’s face it, we need to change the way we talk about reproduction. We should put an end to the blame game and start seeing impotence as a shared problem. When we do this, we can begin to create a more supportive environment for all couples struggling to conceive and make it an easier journey for all.