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When fatherhood needs a helping hand

Many men harbor the natural desire to father a child. It becomes very distressing when a couple is unable to conceive, with no clear indication where the problem is. Men in fact are the sole contributory factors to problems with conception in about a third of the cases. And they have a contributory effect in a further third of cases where conception is a problem. The tendency to presume that women are the problem most of the times is a fallacy.When a young couple has been unable to conceive over a period of a year, both partners should attend a joint fertility consultation at the outset. Excluding potential problems in men tends to be pretty straight forward. A sperm test is all that is required for the majority. But a small number will have sperm abnormalities requiring further tests that include hormone tests, imaging and even genetic studies.

Men should resist the temptation to shy away from getting checked when there is a delay in conception. Marrying a younger wife, as some do, does not solve any problems, it just delays the inevitable. It’s better to come to terms with what the diagnosis is and deal with it. There is of course the choice not to bother, after all you call the shots. There are no brownie points for continuing to live in ignorance, and no point bombarding your wife with endless tests when you may be harboring the problem.

Several problems may be detected. Some are easily modifiable, like stopping smoking and use of other drugs, optimizing weight and avoiding sexual infections. Lifestyle changes may correct minor sperm abnormalities and lead to spontaneous conception. But some men will be found to have severe sperm abnormalities. Such abnormalities range from non-viable sperms to very low numbers, or even complete absence of sperms. Such men have very low conception rates, and usually require help to be able to father a child.

Current assisted conception techniques can help the majority of men, even with the severest forms of sperm abnormalities, to achieve a conception. True, some of the techniques are limited by availability and cost, but are nevertheless effective in helping many men. For some, just getting to understand what the problem is provides some measure of contentment, even when treatment itself is unaffordable. If acceptable, donated sperms can be used for relatively simple treatments, with the upfront realization that the resulting child will not have a genetic link to the named father. Adoption, or even choosing to live childless are sometimes forgotten alternatives.

Going up the road of medical assistance in order to achieve a conception may not be the most romantic way of starting fatherhood. For some men, it’s unfortunately the only way. Either that, or bury your head in the sand.

Take a fertility test today

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