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Male Fertility: Be In The Know

For every seven couples in the U.S. who blithely toss aside their birth control and dive into pregnancy, there’s one couple that struggles to conceive. If you’re one of those, it’s important to get the help you need for so many reasons – emotional, psychological, and even for your health!

By Christina Elston

Despite the fact that almost 4 million American men struggle with infertility, and are a factor in about half of infertility cases, information and support can seem scarce. “This is a large, silent disease,” says Paul Turek, M.D., director of The Turek Clinic in San Francisco and former chair of the department of urology at UCSF.

He explains that because men aren’t as proactive about their health, male factor infertility often goes untreated.

BEYOND THE BABY

A variety of issues can cause fertility problems in men – from sexually transmitted diseases, to hot tubs and smoking, to exposure to radiation. Many of these are treatable, allowing couples to finally start a family. But infertility treatment can be more than that.

“It’s a window into men’s health,” says Turek, “A critical window. I see the baby as the way to get the man in for care.” Turek explains that often men who are otherwise healthy simply don’t go to the doctor.

Infertility is often the first serious health issue that a man faces. And research is starting to connect infertility with other health problems, such as testicular cancer, that develop later in life.

TIPS FOR GALS

Female partners of men facing fertility problems have an important role to play. “I always get the question, ‘How do I get him started?’” Turek says.

1. Schedule him to see an infertility specialist. Clear his calendar FERT IL ITY By Christina Elston Male Fertility: Be In the Know From the editors: For every seven couples in the U.S. who blithely toss aside their birth control and dive into pregnancy, there’s one couple that struggles to conceive. If you’re one of those, it’s important to get the help you need for so many reasons – emotional, psychological, and even for your health!

And make the appointment for him.

2. Tell him that you still love him.

There is no place for blame as this is a couple problem.

3. Help him to blow off steam.

Encourage him to exercise, or exercise with him, to help dissipate frustration.

4. Encourage him to have a healthy lifestyle. Make sure he’s not in a hot tub, smoking or drinking excessive alcohol (more than three glasses per night). Encourage healthy eating with plenty of fruit and vegetables for their antioxidant effects and encourage him to get a good night’s rest.



5. Keep the sex life going. Bring the romance back as much as you can, understanding that his self-esteem may have taken a hit.

TIPS FOR GUYS

In a study published July 13 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Turek and colleagues found that men diagnosed with infertility suffered intense personal, sexual and social strains comparable with those in people battling cancer.

This makes it essential for men to seek the help they need to cope.

1. Take control of the matter.

Educate yourself through Web sites such as ASRM.org and SSMR.org.

2. Make an appointment with a specialist in male infertility. They often employ cutting-edge treatment unfamiliar to other physicians.

3. Talk openly with your partner regarding your feelings. Be upfront when you need a break from the topic.

4. Find a way to blow off steam.

Work out, shoot hoops, or run. Release the stress with yoga or massage.

5. Get the support you need. Talk with buddies who you trust. Even consider talking with a therapist or counselor.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Once you make it to a fertility specialist, the initial consult is nothing to be afraid of, says Turek. It includes a medical history, which is just a conversation; a physical exam, which is much more thorough in the genital area then most men are used to, isn’t painful at all; blood work and semen analysis (and most men don’t have trouble with semen analysis, he says).

There is usually a follow-up semen analysis, so the doctor can get an average.

And after that the doctor often has enough information to see which direction treatment should take. The key is to focus on this as a partnership, and to remember that there are lots of options and lots of resources out there.

Get the infertility facts up-front with a handy book available from pharmaceutical company EMD Serono and the nonprofit Men’s Health Network. Called In the Know: What No One Tells You About Male Fertility, it explains the male reproductive system, infertility causes and treatment, available resources and questions to ask your doctor and insurance company.

For a free copy, visit www.FertilityLifeLines.com/intheknow or call 866-LETS-TRY (866-538-7879).

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