When a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, the focus often turns to a woman’s health. But just as men are equal partners in conception, they can be contributors to fertility problems, too.
“It’s important to appreciate that when you have a couple challenged with infertility, in about 40% to 50% of the time, we are able to attribute the male as the primary or contributory cause,” said Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health at RMA of New York and a board-certiﬁed urologist and male infertility specialist.
“People assume if a couple is having a hard time getting pregnant, it’s the woman’s responsibility to make the changes and it’s her body that’s not working right, but we’re learning more and more that that’s not the case,” added Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian and author of “Fueling Male Fertility,” a guide that provides men with simple ways they can support a couple’s goal of becoming pregnant, whether they are trying naturally or undergoing assisted reproduction.
Problems that can affect male fertility include low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and low testosterone levels. Additionally, evidence suggests that recurrent miscarriage may not be related only to female factors, yet the focus continues to be on the female partner when couples experience pregnancy loss, Manaker explained.
The promising news is, various lifestyle factors have been shown to support male fertility and improve chances of conception. But this requires men to be proactive about their role in conceiving a baby.
“Men don’t access health care with the same seriousness as women do,” Bar-Chama said, from his experience. “Women regularly visit their ob/gyn from early on in their reproductive life cycle … but men are often neither proactive or preventative in their approach to medical care.”
What’s more, Manaker added, “men don’t want to talk about apples and their sperm.”
According to Bar-Chama, an initial fertility evaluation, which encompasses assessing lifestyle risk factors, along with an initial semen analysis is a simple first step to determine whether a problem exists.