When a couple fails to conceive, males are found to be solely responsible in 20-30% of cases and contribute to almost 50% of cases overall.
Professor Luciano Nardo, founder and medical director of Reproductive Health Group (RHG) in Daresbury, has dedicated his entire career to helping couples who are seeking to conceive a child and argues that while female reproductive health is often at the forefront of a woman’s mind, men can easily overlook or ignore their own reproductive health.
He says: ‘Couples that have been unable to achieve conception after one year should be investigated. One in eight couples have problems with conceiving their first child and the fact that in just under half of these there will be a male factor that is contributing demonstrates it is important always to consider the male.’
‘Sadly, the provision for male infertility within the NHS is rather poor, with facilities still very female orientated both locally and nationally. Ideally, all diagnostic and treatment procedures should take place under one roof, not least because of ethical and legal concerns over the movement of sperm samples between locations. At RHG we have all the expertise and clinical facilities required to undertake all relevant research and procedures. We have also recently appointed both Professor Vijay Sangar, Consultant Urological Surgeon, and Mr Arie Parnham, Consultant Urologist and Andrologist (specifically male diseases and conditions) and specialist in male fertility.’
The first step for any couple seeking support with infertility is to see a specialist, of course, but what does this mean for the male partner?
Mr. Parnham says: ‘The first thing we must do is a full health check. Studies have shown that men with impaired semen parameters are also more likely to suffer from poor health. We also undertake a semen analysis. If this is abnormal we would repeat the test and if still abnormal then perform blood tests to check hormone levels and whether there might be some genetic abnormality – with appropriate genetic counselling, of course.
‘Some patients will need further tests, including ultrasound imaging of the testes or prostate, MRI scans or vasography. It might all sound rather scary when listed like this, but treatment can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes – stopping smoking, weight loss, improved exercise etc – though on occasion minor surgery may be necessary and in that case we have all the facilities we need at RHG.
‘It’s sad, but there is still a lot of stigma associated with male infertility and very little research in this area, although this seems to be changing. Many men view infertility as a challenge to their masculine identity and so either ignore the issue or find it very difficult to talk about. RHG understands this and has private facilities and counsellors to help.’
Professor Nardo adds: ‘By bringing Vijay and Arie to the clinic, we can offer a unique, bespoke, integrated service where all aspects of male and female infertility are addressed in parallel under one roof, allowing efficient investigation, treatment and excellent outcomes.
‘I believe we should start educating men from a young age about awareness of their reproductive health. By paying no attention until the time they are seeking to conceive, what might initially have been small problems can escalate and cause much heartbreak down the line.’
Professor Sangar agrees: ‘We offer a full male reproductive health check at RHG, whether you are currently actively to trying to conceive, or not. This check-up is, I would argue, something men should consider as a regular thing. It can not only pick up on infertility issues, but also signs of more serious issues.’