What is the Psychological Impact of Male Infertility?

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The prevalence of male infertility is starting to rise while the subject of female infertility has been recognised more frequently. Several studies have been done on female infertility and the psychological impact thereof on women, but raising awareness of the psychological impact that male infertility can have on men has been underrated.


Considering Male Infertility

Male infertility may be considered when a man and his partner have been struggling to conceive when they have had regular and unprotected intercourse for the past 12 months. When the struggle is becoming a burden, it is recommended to consult a doctor. The doctor will do a few tests to determine if the male is fertile or not.


Male Fertility Tests

Semen Analysis

Semen analysis has to be done by a doctor to determine semen parameters and the viability of the sperm. This is done when a semen sample is collected and sent to the laboratory to test semen parameters. The parameters that are tested include the amount of semen produced, the concentration of the sperm, sperm motility and structure, as well as the pH of the semen and the presence of any microbes that can cause an infection.


Hormone Tests

Not only do these parameters have an effect on male fertility, but so does the imbalance of hormones. Via a blood sample, the hormones can be tested to ensure if there is an imbalance or not. The hormones that are tested for are testosterone and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and they need to be in balance for optimal fertility. When there is an imbalance, it will disturb the spermatogenesis process as well as the production of testosterone.


Ultrasounds and Genetic Testing

Ultrasounds are scans that are done with the scrotum and rectum. These scans are used to determine if there are any obstructions in the urethra or even any torsions or infections causing a blockage that is affecting a male’s fertility. Most of the time the obstruction can be surgically removed and the fertility will be restored.

Genetic tests are also done to determine if there are any abnormalities with a male’s sperm and also to eliminate or diagnose a genetic abnormality that might be causing infertility.


Testicular Biopsy

The last resort would be to do a testicular biopsy by taking a part of the testicular tissue and sending it away for tests. These tests can pick up if there are any cancerous tumours present or if there are any sperm present.


Psychological Impacts

Males can experience various psychological impacts regarding the infertility of their partner or themselves. When a male is deemed to be infertile it can cause severe anxiety that can lead to depression. Although most men would think that masculinity walks hand-in-hand with great fertility, that is not always the case. Men are less willing to admit that they are struggling to process the fact of being infertile and are less likely to seek help when experiencing anxiety or depression.

It is unfortunate that the emotional state of the male, being sad or anxious, can consequently have an impact on their sexual life by causing a lower libido or erectile dysfunction. Men may also experience a decrease in their self-esteem and can easily feel inadequate in society. Some men may even feel frustrated and confused. Their frustration can be due to them feeling substandard believing it is their fault that they are not able to conceive. The feeling of confusion can be due to the stereotype that only women can be infertile or not understanding the possible mechanism of how a man can be infertile.

How to Deal with the Emotional Repercussions

Before choosing the easy way out via the medication route, it is important for men to work through emotional issues via counselling. Sometimes it is possible that resolving the emotional issues and breaking the barriers to their depression and anxiety, can cause an increase in their fertility

Sometimes it is necessary to improve an individual’s quality of life by adding medication therapy along with counselling to get optimal results. When a patient is referred to a doctor by a psychologist or counsellor and before starting treatment, it is important for the patient to mention what their struggles are, because this will affect the decision on which appropriate treatment the patient should be started. First-line anti-depressants, known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), usually have side effects of lower libido and erectile dysfunction, worsening the symptoms that are already experienced.


Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART)

Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) might be considered to enhance a couple’s chance of conceiving. This is when an Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) procedure is used to inject a carefully selected healthy sperm into a healthy egg. When infertility is caused by decreased testosterone secretion, a carefully selected amount of testosterone can be administered to a patient to increase their testosterone levels and increase their sperm production.

Infertility can also be caused by an obstruction in the reproductive tract and can usually be surgically removed to restore fertility. Another option is to consider preserving a male’s sperm by freezing it. This will ensure that a healthy amount of sperm is preserved at low temperatures to be used for insemination at a later stage or it can be donated.


The Future of Male Infertility Treatment

Researchers are also busy developing a 3D printer to create viable testicular cells via a biopsy from a patient’s testicles who suffer from azoospermia, the absence of sperm in the semen. This research may still take years before achieving any success.

If you are still unsure and have a question about infertility or how to enhance it, speak to your General Practitioner or to a fertility specialist at the fertility clinic.

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