Male Infertility: A taboo delaying the treatment of couples

Infertility—is this only a woman’s affair? Although 15.7% of heterosexual couples suffer from infertility worldwide, this taboo subject delays the progress of MAP: and that of male infertility. In fact, the origins of infertility are shared between the two sexes; infertility is rooted in one-third of female cases, in one-third of male cases, and the remaining third are marked as unidentified. 

What is the reason for this taboo? 

For some men, the notion of inferior sperm can raise the feeling of failure. Indeed, many associate fertility with virility: when we talk about abnormal spermogram, men have the impression that impotence is associated with erectile dysfunction. Some feel a sense of guilt with the “imposition” of treatments on female partners, especially during the IVF process – this is where the woman will undergo hormone injections, blood tests, medical appointments, punctures and so on, when she may have no dysfunction.

Unfortunately, this fear and lack of information lead many men to belatedly learn that they will have difficulty procreating, and this delay may contribute to more infertility treatments for the couple. 

Understanding the Causes of Male Infertility

To start, a distinction is to be made between infertility and sterility. Infertility is the irreversible inability to naturally conceive, bear a child or give birth, specifically identified as difficulty in conceiving a child. Symptoms are not deceiving: they include extended delays in conception, erectile dysfunction, and/or problems with ejaculation. These symptoms are far from systematic; when it is difficult to conceive a child, it is not clear which partner is the cause. 

Male infertility is caused by various causes affecting sperm production and/or circulation: Azoospermia, which means the complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate; Oligospermia, which means the number of sperm is less than 30 million/ml; Asthenospermia, which means that the sperm motility is insufficient; or Teratospermia, which means that the number of abnormal sperm is too high.

What treatment for male infertility?

To start, it is necessary to establish the correct diagnosis, to consult a fertility expert qualified to define the cause of the infertility and propose suitable solutions. A spermogram is prescribed to assess the sperm’s concentration, motility and the presence of abnormal sperm in the semen which may indicate an infection. Depending on the results, certain medications or hormonal treatments may sufficiently correct a fertility dysfunction. In other cases, an operation may be preferable.  If infertility cannot be corrected in these ways, medically assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF or artificial insemination may be considered. 

Gradually, male infertility is increasingly accepted and research on the subject is being refined. For many years, treatments were recommended to women only. Today, the male assessment is almost automatically requested during the MAP course. The outcome: men are progressively finding it easier to talk about their infertility.