While nearly half of infertility is due to male factors, more men remain reluctant to seek professional assistance.Dr. Trustin Domes, a Saskatoon reproductive urologist – the only one in the province – said societal stereotypes attached to masculinity and virility might have something to do with why men are suffering in silence.
“And that’s not appropriate. It does hit the heart of a man’s manhood in terms of their ability to provide to their partner and being able to father the child and it does strain the couple a lot,” Domes said, adding that the negative effects infertility has on a relationship are all the more reason why couples should seek professional help together.
Domes said in his experience, women usually seek help first and once their basic evaluation is done and there is nothing found wrong with them, then their spouses are evaluated.
“We recommend that couples should be worked up simultaneously because from 30 to 40 per cent (of problems are) male factors and we don’t want the woman to go through a bunch of unnecessary tests if the man has the problem,” he said.
Thirty to 40 per cent of infertility problems are caused by female factors, 15 per cent of the problems are due to unidentifiable causes and 10 per cent are due to a mixture of male and female factors.
According to Domes, it is crucial that the cause of infertility be determined because some of them, like the genetic ones, have lifelong health implications for the man and can be passed on to his children.
While age is very significant for maternal fertility, it affects men too, especially those over 50.
“Age does impact fertility, in particular sperm quality and DNA fragmentation, where the integrity of the sperm’s DNA becomes fragmented or damaged. That fragmented or damaged DNA cannot form an embryo,” Domes said, adding that living a healthy lifestyle, like not drinking excessively and not smoking, has been shown to reduce DNA fragmentation issues for men.
Domes added that damaged DNA in the sperm can be repaired by a younger egg, but couples are waiting longer to have children, so in some cases the eggs are older too.
Anna Baker, founder of the Regina Infertility Support Group, said that there is not enough awareness about male-factor infertility and that there is a real need for education and understanding that infertility affects both men and women.
“Ideally where I would like to see it is in sex education in schools. I think a lot of the sex education we get is based on avoiding teen pregnancy,” said the Regina mother, who started the charity organization after undergoing fertility treatments she describes as “incredibly painful, incredibly difficult, and so lonely.”
The group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7: 30 p.m. at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre.
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