Male infertility an issue for many couples

May 26, 2013 (CHICAGO) — Potential dads-to-be, listen up: The things you’re doing right now could hurt your chances of having a kid.


Millions of couples suffer from infertility. While many people tend to think of it as being a problem with the woman, at least 50 percent of the time, it’s because of the man.

“Family has always been important to both Jason and I,” Anita Hansen said. “So we’ve always, you know, wanted to have a family of our own.”

Hansen could not get pregnant.

“I was tested first through my OB-GYN and had various tests and stuff done. And then afterwards, they asked Jason if he could get tested,” she said.

Dr. Sherman Silber is one of the leading infertility specialists in the country. He says a number of issues can cause male infertility.

“It can also be caused by having mumps after puberty, or by a hernia repair that the child had, or you can have an infection, an STD that can result in scarring with blockage,” Silber said.

The Mayo Clinic says stress can reduce sperm. The CDC reports cocaine and marijuana can lower the count, too. From high fevers to saunas to hot tubs, overheating the testicles can hurt fertility.

And watch were you put that laptop guys. A study found they can overheat the testicles in minutes, and protective pads do not prevent it from happening.

Jason’s issue was something he’s had all his life.

“I was born without vas deferens tubes,” he said.

An outpatient procedure helped extract his sperm. The couple got pregnant on their first round of in-vitro fertilization. Now, they’re expecting twin boys.

To help boost fertility, guys can also try upping their Vitamin C. A small study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods reports men who took 1,000 mg Vitamin C twice a day significantly improved their sperm quality.

The American Dietetic Association recommends men consume at least 90 mg of Vitamin C each day to improve their fertility.




10 Words That Describe Infertility by Steve Wiens-Huffington Post

Recently, I wrote a post about the hilarious and exasperating journey of parenting small children. But for seven harrowing years of infertility, my wife Mary and I would have given anything to have children, no matter how hard it was.

Here are ten words I would use to describe how infertility feels:

1. Lonely
We saw couple after couple get pregnant before us, our best friends included. When they told us, we high-fived them, then we went home, and hardly knew what to say to each other. We felt lost, sad, and even lonelier than before. We were excited for them; we were just very sad for us.

It’s okay to go home and cry your eyes out when your friends get pregnant.

2. Exposed
Everybody wants to give you advice, and some people say incredibly stupid things. My favorite: “You just need to stop trying so hard!” Some people want to know every excruciating detail of what you’re doing to get pregnant. Suddenly, your most private details are the subject of casual conversation. Once people know you’re trying, people want to know how it’s going, if you’ve done artificial insemination, if you’d consider IVF, and how it felt in that small white room with the gross leather chair and the bad magazines.

It’s okay to avoid the question, smile, and change the subject. Keep as many things private as you can (except to a few trusted friends).

3. On Hold
We were always checking the calendar, wondering if we should plan that vacation, or that work trip, because what if we’re pregnant? Then we stopped doing that, because we would have never lived if we would have scheduled everything around a “what if.”

It’s okay to miss a month or two; you have to live your life. This is hard, but over the long haul, it will create more stress if you feel so trapped that you can’t plan anything. We even found that it’s good to take a month off now and then.

4. Invaded
For women, there are so many things entering your body (probes, needles, drugs) and so many people measuring your progress. Even sex, at the mercy of a calendar or a temperature reading, can feel invasive. The loss of control can almost merge into a loss of self. But, it feels like once you’ve started down this road, there’s no stopping until you get pregnant.

It’s okay to say what you need, and it’s okay to shore up your boundaries in whatever ways you can.

5. Awkward
During one of the first visits where I was given the small cup and ceremoniously ushered into the small room, I actually ran into some people from my church afterwards. Of course they had their baby with them. I had a small cup that contained very personal contents with me. They asked, “What are you doing here?” I mean, what do you say?

It’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes. And when someone catches you with your cup in your hand, that’s all you can do.

6. Angry
Unfair is the password that gets you into the infertility club. Mary tells a story of a friend asking her if she was angry with God. “No!” she blurted. “I’m angry at pregnant women!” She knew this was irrational, but she also knew that it was good for her soul to be honest in safe places. You actually may be angry with God, and you may need to find some safe places to be honest about that.

It’s okay to express the darkness, even the stuff you’re terribly embarrassed about, because it’s good for your soul. But in the right places, with people who can handle it.

7. Stressed
Even though it seems like a stressed out couple is less likely to get pregnant, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine finds that there is no proof stress causes infertility. Besides, trying hard to “not be so stressed about it” never worked for us. It also didn’t help to “just stop trying.” Everybody has a friend who was infertile for 73 years, and the day they stopped trying, they got pregnant. That never happened with us.

It’s okay to be stressed. Don’t stress about your stress. Trying hard not to be stressed is silly.

8. Despair
The cycle of hope and despair with infertility can take you out. I remember getting so excited when Mary was two days late, and just knowing that this time, it’s going to happen! Then, a few days or hours later, when she told me she got “it,” I would plunge into despair. The alternative is to temper your hope so that your despair doesn’t get so low. After about a hundred months of experiencing this cycle, we found that the best route is to keep hoping, and if it doesn’t happen, keep crying. It’s too hard to pretend that you’re not excited and that you’re not depressed. Be excited. Be depressed.

It’s okay to hope, and it’s okay to cry. Keep hoping and keep crying.

9. Loss
This was not how it was supposed to be. This was not what you dreamed it would be. And you don’t know how it will end.

It’s okay if you don’t know how to wrap your mind around your emotions. Be gentle with yourself for not totally having control of how you feel from moment to moment.

10. Ambivalence
Every time you have to go through another kind of treatment, you ask yourself: Is it worth it? Do I really want it that bad? And then in the very next breath, you are taken out by the sheer magnitude of how much you want a baby.

It’s okay to want and not want. That’s normal.

If you’re struggling with infertility, it can be such a dark time. You have to be out loud with each other about what you need, and every journey will be different. You have to give yourselves permission to do this journey in whatever way makes the most sense for you.

My blessing for you as you struggle: May God give you what you need, when you need it, over and over and over again.




Mother’s Day a stressful time for women going through infertility Smiles, tears when struggling with infertility

Sunday is the day the country celebrates mothers, but for hundreds of women in Central Massachusetts, motherhood is something they’re struggling to experience.

“It is probably the worst day of the year for women going through infertility,” said Alice Domar, executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, which is a division of Waltham-based Boston IVF, one of the country’s largest in vitro fertilization centers.

While there have always been infertile couples, the fact that many couples are waiting longer to try to have children appears to be driving infertility rates up among women 35 and older. In 1995, 8 percent of women 35 to 44 years old were infertile. In 2002, 15.1 percent were, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though the prevalence of infertility has grown — Boston IVF, for instance, did about 20 cycles of in vitro fertilization in 1986 and more than 2,500 in 2012 — it is still a subject people often keep to themselves.

“The majority of people going through infertility don’t tell anybody. The majority of women don’t even tell their mothers,” Ms. Domar said. That’s despite the fact that infertility can cause the same amount of stress and depression as a cancer diagnosis, she said.

Add to that an entire holiday celebrating motherhood — and one for fathers next month — and it can be hard to keep a stiff upper lip.

Sometimes, friends and family honestly do not know much about infertility treatment and what is involved. In vitro fertilization, for instance, is considered one of the more effective treatments, but it still has a less than 50 percent chance of working. It generally starts with a month of birth control for the woman to regulate her menstrual cycle, followed by 10 to 12 days of daily injections of hormones designed to increase egg production and prevent the eggs from being released too early, said Dr. Julia V. Johnson, professor and chairman of the obstetrics/gynecology department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School/UMass Memorial Medical Center.

During those 10 to 12 days, the woman must come to the doctor’s office about every other day for blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds to gauge how the eggs are developing. When they are ready, a doctor retrieves the eggs by inserting a needle through the woman’s vagina while guided by an ultrasound. It’s a short procedure, but it takes a couple of hours for the anesthetic to wear off, Dr. Johnson said.

Doctors combine the eggs with some of the husband’s sperm, which was either frozen previously or produced while his wife was being operated on. The embryos grow for three to five days in the lab, and depending on their quality, doctors will implant one or up to three in the woman’s uterus through a non-surgical procedure. Doctors are becoming more conservative in how many embryos they implant, which should reduce the number of multiples born through IVF pregnancies, said Dr. Kim L. Thornton, a reproductive endocrinologist with Boston IVF in Worcester.

Then the couple waits about 12 days to find out if the embryo has become a pregnancy. “That’s a terrible time, because you really want to know,” Dr. Johnson said.

There are facilities in Worcester for everything except the egg retrieval and embryo transfer, but that could change in a year, Dr. Johnson said. Reproductive Science Center hopes to open a lab here, she said. “We know that this part of Massachusetts really needs those services,” Dr. Johnson said.

For Camille A. and Matthew Graves of Brookfield, the process never worked out. She already had 16- and 13-year-old sons from a previous marriage, and after having her tubes untied and undergoing a few years of infertility treatments, the couple had had enough. In addition to the physical and emotional toll, the couple had racked up $41,000 in bills, because Ms. Graves’ employer fell outside the state’s mandate that requires most insurers to cover fertility treatments.

“Screw it, I’m done,” she thought late last year. She couldn’t stand any more shots, sadness or expense. “When you take all the drugs, you gain all the weight, you feel awful … and then the disappointment that comes with it,” she said.

She decided to get back in shape and tried P90X, the 90-day exercise program whose devotees include former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. On day 60, she realized she was pregnant. Her husband gasped. She was in denial for eight weeks.

She said the shots that are part of in vitro fertilization were tough, but she knows why people go through it. A pregnancy, she said, “It’s just a wonderful thing,” her face showing more joy than her words could hold.

She urged women to take a short break from trying to conceive if they’re feeling frustrated.

“Just start focusing on yourself and stop trying,” she said. “Even say, ‘OK, I’m going to focus on myself for three months.’ ”

Ms. Domar said she has heard many stories like Ms. Graves’, in which a pregnancy finally comes after women reduce their stress levels.

In the meantime, however, she had some tips for infertile women trying to get through Mother’s Day:

“If you have a mother or mother-in-law, focus on them or try to celebrate the two of you (you and your husband) as a family,” she said. Avoid places like church, the mall and family restaurants that are likely to be focused on Mother’s Day. Go to an R-rated movie, a spa or a very fancy restaurant — late. Feel free to skip family gatherings if it will just be too painful, she said.

“It’s honestly rubbing salt in the wound to see your siblings be ecstatic parents and your parents be ecstatic grandparents,” Ms. Domar said. Infertility patients, she said, “can basically say they’re under doctor’s orders to not do what everybody expects them to do … It’s really OK not to.”

She also had some suggestions for friends and loved ones of women grappling with infertility. “Don’t offer unsolicited advice,” she said, “because in all likelihood your loved one knows a lot more than you do.”

If someone undergoing treatment calls and says she has just found out she is not pregnant again, take her out for ice cream or wine, Ms. Domar continued. “And on Sunday, think about her, because it’s a really, really hard day.”

Erin Lasker, executive director of RESOLVE New England, a support, education and advocacy nonprofit network for people coping with infertility, hit on many of the same themes. “Some people need to stay inside and not see families celebrating together, while others may want to be surrounded by mothers and children to help feed their hope of celebrating the day in the future,” she said in an email. “I recommend doing what feels right for that person/couple.”

Ms. Domar had some encouraging advice about whether couples should discuss their infertility with others: While most couples do not, those that do have received mostly supportive reactions, she said. “People come out of the woodwork” with stories about their own or other people’s infertility, she said. One woman discovered her own sister-in-law had become pregnant only through in vitro fertilization.

There might be more people around you who have experienced infertility than you realize, she added, like a relative whose children ended up being six years apart.

Dr. Thornton said she tells people that “the overwhelming percentage of patients can become mothers.” Boston IVF’s goal is to have that child be genetically related to the mother, but there are also options such as egg donation and adoption. “One of our goals is to help people understand that they can build families, and sometimes you just have to pursue a different path,” she said.

Dr. Johnson, who discovered her own infertility after choosing to work in that area, pursued one of those different paths herself. Her adopted son is now 23.

“He’s a great guy,” she said simply. “For some people, it is the right choice.”


 In our Jewish culture, children are intrinsic to fundamental experiences and milestones.

They are valued members of our community, a focus of holiday traditions and markers of life-cycle events, from bris and bar/bat mitzvah, to wedding and beyond.

But for the couple that wishes to yet is unable to conceive, such celebratory events are instead aching reminders of the cavity in their life, a hollowness accompanied by isolation. Not only does a childless couple feel excluded by friends focused on their own growing families, but they often suffer alone.

After experiencing the anguish and tribulations of infertility, three Toronto couples, Pamela and Menachem Kuhl, Shaindy and Moti Seidenfeld, and Yona and Isser Elishis, decided that no one should face infertility without support.

And so, just over 10 years ago, Small Wonders was born. With a mandate of support, assistance and discretion, the Toronto organization assists Jewish couples experiencing infertility. Initially, the focus was to provide financial assistance, but it grew to include other forms of aid.

People are directed to Small Wonders via fertility clinics, doctors and rabbis, and ads are posted in mikvahs and community publications. The intention is to increase public awareness so that couples reach out as soon as they realize something is wrong.

The helpline is the first contact callers have with Small Wonders. From there, its peer-to-peer program matches up people with others who have endured similar experiences or medical procedures, whether it is in vitro fertilization (IVF), miscarriage or second-time infertility. Recently, a woman who was confronting cancer and was contemplating freezing her eggs contacted Small Wonders.

Because much of the organization’s strength stems from its internal support network of couples, it promotes camaraderie through frequent events, which vary from educational, such as Q&As with medical professionals, and events like games nights and yoga classes.

Most events are held in Small Wonders’ facility, centrally located on the Bathurst Street corridor. It has a discreet back entrance for privacy and houses a boardroom, lounge area and private computers for research use.

Small Wonders also helps couples through the medical process. “We’ll do anything to assist a couple during treatments,” Yona Elishis said. This could include obtaining quick medical referrals, assistance with administering medications and injections, or providing hospital transportation, hotel accommodation and even babysitting.

While Small Wonders provides emotional support to anyone, its financial assistance is reserved for Jewish couples, and is determined by a committee based on need and eligibility. An IVF procedure costs approximately $15,000, and since success is not guaranteed, repeat procedures are often required. The exorbitant costs climb quickly and, except in limited, specific circumstances, are not covered by OHIP.

Hundreds of couples have been assisted in some way by Small Wonders, and more than 100 babies have been born since its inception. While most IVF clients thankfully achieve success, it is often after years of emotional and physical stress. One couple involved with Small Wonders finally conceived after their 11th IVF procedure.

Upon a baby’s birth, some appreciative families make a financial donation to the organization, which, in turn, assists other couples.

Small Wonders employs various fundraising endeavours, but raises most of its resources through two unique annual events: A Night of Wonder, a glamorous evening of design and décor, and the Small Wonders bake sale, now in its seventh year.  Scheduled for May 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 122 Bannockburn Ave., the sale is an elegant display of beautifully packaged and scrumptious baked goods, from challahs and cheesecakes to cake-pops and fondant cakes. Hundreds of items are prepared by women citywide and many local food establishments donate kosher-certified items. As well, nearly two-dozen florists contribute striking arrangements that both beautify the sale and are available for purchase, fresh for the Shavuot holiday.

The anticipated event, which is always sold out, is run completely by volunteers from throughout the Jewish community. Not only do many people help support the organization, but the event creates awareness of Small Wonders.

“Our primary goal is to help as many couples as possible,” said Shaindy Seidenfeld. Concurrently, it also strives to increase people’s sensitivity towards childless couples.

“Our experiences have taught us all about sensitivity,” said Pamela Kuhl, noting how comments are sometimes thoughtlessly dispensed. While the desire for children is often assumed by others, “you never know what’s going on,” she said. Children are both essential and celebrated in our life-cycle-centred culture, and while they are always a blessing, sometimes the miracle of their existence is far from small.

Health and Science- Washington Post

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