Causes & Treatment

The Physical and Emotional Pain of Being Told I Have Zero Sperm

Eloise Edington  |   28 Jun 2021


Recently Fertility Help Hub, along with our friends at The Fertility Tribe and our partner fertility clinic, Laurel Fertility Care (based in San Francisco), did a joint Instagram LIVE discussing the emotional impact of male infertility, the repercussions for men, and where to seek emotional help and support for infertility.

As many Fertility Help Hub readers will know, this is a topic very close to our hearts, as Founder, Eloise’s husband has Azoospermia and is infertile (due to a genetic condition called Klinefelter Syndrome). They went down the sperm donor route five years ago, to have their three children via IVF in the USA.

Fertility is by no means just a women’s issue. In fact, infertility affects men and women equally.

Many couples focus on female fertility tests and procedures, to then find out the man has issues with his sperm.

“In couples experiencing infertility, approximately 35% is down to male factors, 35% is due to female factors, 20% of cases have a combination of both male and female factors, and the last 10% is down to unexplained infertility.”

So What Causes Male Infertility?

Male infertility can be due to low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Illnesses, genetic conditions (such as Klinefelter Syndrome), injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices, and other factors can also contribute to male infertility. In some cases, male infertility can be treated with lifestyle changes, medication, and/or surgery. Other patients must undergo assisted reproduction technologies such as IUI or IVF to achieve success. For men with Azoospermia (no sperm), an operation called Micro-TESE can be performed on the testicles, to try and extract viable sperm to fertilise eggs via IVF. If this is not successful (as was the case for Jack and Eloise), then donor sperm is often used to achieve IVF success.

For many men and their partners, male factor infertility is an emotional journey as well as a physical one. For this reason, we have turned to Eloise’s husband Jack, who was diagnosed with Azoospermia back in 2015, to hear his perspective. Read on as he answers some questions about his male infertility diagnosis, how it affected him emotionally, and whether he has any regrets about having his Micro-TESE operation or pursuing donor sperm to grow his family.

Words by Jack:

Q: How did being diagnosed with male factor infertility make you feel?

“It was initially upsetting, but I’m a pragmatic kind of guy. It didn’t take me long to look at the bright side of never having to use contraception again, being extremely horny after each of my testosterone injections, and being able to ‘select’ our future children through the IVF sperm donor process.

Q: Do you think you could have been given the news in a better way and with more support?

Absolutely. The fertility clinic that we went to for diagnostic testing didn’t seem to have come across Klinefelter Syndrome before. The fertility specialist was also not very articulate or particularly knowledgeable in the way he delivered the news to us about my infertility.

We ended up going to the U.S. for treatment. There, I had a Micro-TESE (microsurgical testicular sperm extraction), which is a surgical procedure used to retrieve sperm in men with non-obstructive Azoospermia. Once we realised there was no viable sperm for us to use, that’s when we decided to move on to donor sperm.

Related Article – The Down-Low on Male Infertility Causes, Treatments & Emotions

Q: Would you have the Micro-TESE procedure again? Any regrets?

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I would not do it again. I do not have any regrets though, as this was the only sure-fire way of knowing whether there was potentially any viable sperm for us to use, prior to moving onto donor sperm.

Q: What are your thoughts and feelings around using a sperm donor to have your children?

I love the fact that there are men out there that are willing to give such an incredible gift. I love my children. Enough said.

Q: Do you have any infertility scars now?

No. How could I? I have three beautiful children.

Related Article – Rhod Gilbert: Stands Up to Male Infertility

Q: What advice would you give to any men struggling? 

Use ice packs after the Micro-TESE procedure and seek support from a fertility counsellor if you feel you need it.”

 

What to do if you have male factor fertility issues

Male factor infertility can be an emotionally complex diagnosis, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and emasculation. If you or your partner are dealing with male factor infertility, you are not alone, even though it might feel that way right now. That’s why we need to continue the conversation and shine a light on male factor infertility so that men feel more supported when receiving this devastating diagnosis.

If you think you may have male factor infertility, ask your doctor for a referral to a male fertility specialist (urologist) and request a diagnostic work-up so both partners are covered before beginning any treatment for infertility. Be your own advocate, push for additional testing, and don’t hesitate to seek fertility help if you feel you need it.”

Male infertility can be an emotionally complex diagnosis, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and emasculation. But men are emotionally affected by infertility even when the diagnosis isn’t their own.

We asked Kristyn, Founder of The Fertility Tribe how her husband felt when they were going through fertility treatment. Their infertility struggles were down to an ovulation issue of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Kristyn said that although the ‘problem’ was hers, her husband still felt the full spectrum of infertility-related emotions, from the guilt of not being able to attend every fertility specialist consult, to the helplessness of not having to bear the brunt of the physical side-effects of fertility treatments.

She has that, “I got him involved in the fertility process in any way that I could, and when we started IVF, I had him handle all of the medication duties, from mixing IVF shots to administering injections. Having my husband play a more active role in our treatment helped us two-fold: I felt less like I was carrying the entire physical burden of IVF on my shoulders, and he felt more in control of the situation. It forced us to communicate more, made our relationship stronger, and in tackling infertility together as a team, set us up for success as parents of twins.”

This is a great piece of advice for anyone starting out on the IVF journey, work as a team and communicate to find out a way to support one another, avoiding the blame game.

 

To find out about Male Infertility causes, treatments and support on Laurel Fertility Care’s website, click here. Make sure you watch back our super informative Instagram Live with The Fertility Tribe and Laurel Fertility Care about ‘The Emotional Journey of Male Factor Infertility,’ click here to watch.

To make sure you don’t miss our expert interviews, podcasts and written content, join our free Fertility Squad community app today. Meet and connect with thousands of others around the world who are going through the same thing.

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