Father’s Day is another one of those dates on the infertility calendar. It’s a painful day for all the men suffering with infertility who would love to be celebrating that they are a father. Male infertility accounts for around 30% of all infertility cases. But, regardless of the reason for infertility the sad fact remains 1 in 8 couples are struggling to fall pregnant. Interestingly, the majority of visitors to The Fertility Hub are men! Our audience is made up of 55% male visitors vs. 45% female visitors. Recent research showed women gained support and knowledge from social media, whereas men tend to shy away from discussing infertility on a public platform.
Don’t be afraid of tests
Many couples try for years before they seek medical assistance. Infertility is defined when a couple have tried for more than 12 months with no success if the female is under 35. If the female partner is over 35 then they should seek medical help after 6 months of trying to conceive. Both partners need to undergo testing to determine the cause of their infertility. To all our male readers, there is NO stigma in having tests. The clinics do this ALL day EVERY day and these diagnostic tests take you one step closer to fatherhood. So, please don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid of the result. There are many ways in which male infertility can be treated.
Ellis Hart, 44 from London, tells his infertility story and gives us some insight on how it feels from a male perspective.
I spent all of my twenties taking every precaution to not get anybody pregnant! It seems ironic now, it never occurred to me that I would struggle to become a Dad. I met my wife Emma when I was 34, she was 32 at the time. We dated for two years before moving in together, I was finally ready to give up the bachelor flat!
Marked decrease in female fertility after 35
Emma & I married the following year and Emma was aware that time was ticking, so we decided to try for a baby straight after the wedding. That first year of married life went by very quickly. We were both busy at work and while having a child was top of our agenda, we weren’t obsessing over it to start with. That changed when Emma had her 37th birthday. She was worried something was wrong and booked an appointment to see her GP. I didn’t go with her for that appointment, I felt embarrassed and was scared the problem was with me.
Talk to each other
When Emma returned from that first Doctor’s visit, she was so upset. The Doctor had explained to her that fertility decreases after the age of 35 and that we both needed tests to check my sperm and her egg quality. I tried to reassure her that everything would be fine, but deep down I was terrified. I felt really protective of her, it’s the old hunter gatherer in me. This challenged my manhood. It sounds silly, but that was how I felt. Looking back now, I realise Emma felt the same. She felt she’d let me down as a woman. It took a long time before we had that conversation, we both wish we’d had it sooner.
We turned a huge corner once we told each other how we felt. It was great to have her support when I felt down about the situation and I felt useful when I could pick her up. I was so reluctant to go for tests, but I knew I had to get over it for her sake. We went to our local fertility unit at the hospital and sat on the main corridor. I was so uncomfortable sitting below a big sign that told the world of our problem. But it got worse. My name was called and a nurse holding the specimen cup escorted me to a side room off the main corridor!
The boys room
She left me to it. The strip lighting was harsh and the room just had a bare desk and two chairs. I needed inspiration if I was to perform. I decided to use my phone and watch something with the sound off, fully aware that a group of strangers were only 5 feet away. There was no reception on my phone. I was so nervous, was everyone thinking about what I was doing in here? I was in there for over 30 minutes! I emerged head downward looking at the blue lino of the corridor. Emma was missing. I presumed she also was undergoing some personal intrusion.
We had an anxious couple of weeks awaiting the results. To say I was relieved to receive the news that everything was in good working order is an understatement! I instantly felt guilty, because this must mean the problem was with Emma. When her results came through, I was thankfully proved wrong again. There was nothing obviously wrong with her either! We had a follow up appointment with a fertility specialist to explain these confusing results. That appointment didn’t clarify our situation. Instead we came away with the diagnosis on unexplained infertility!
Don’t delay getting treatment
Emma started taking Clomid and we continued to try for another 6 months. We had discussed the possibility of IVF but hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Once Emma celebrated another birthday, we knew we had to do something and quickly. We were both worried that before we knew it, Emma would be 40 and then our chances even with IVF got slimmer.
We decided to go privately for IVF. Waiting lists on the NHS were long and no guarantee of funding by the time it was our turn. We felt empowered once we made the decision and started to look at clinics. It was overwhelming, there were many to choose from with varying prices and varying degrees of success. It was around this time that Operation Baby became our obsession. We talked of nothing else and spent most evenings doing our research on the internet. There was so much to learn and understand.
Once treatment started, my feelings of being inept crept back in. I had to stand by and watch Emma go through the torture of injections. I hate needles and her bravery just blew me away. We were really lucky to have a very supportive family and some close friends who gave us a shoulder to cry on. At first, we both felt reluctant to tell anybody about our situation, but in the end, we just had to share the burden. Looking back, I think that really helped both of us.
We were also really lucky to get pregnant on our first round of IVF. We had read so many stories of couples having 3 or 4 rounds, so you can imagine our joy! Oliver joined us last October so this my first Father’s Day. I’m the proudest man on earth, he was worth the wait! To those couples still trying, my advice is talk to each other, tell your family and friends and get help as soon as you think there is a problem.
Happy Father’s Day Ellis! If you have any questions then please reach out to us confidentially here.