Finding out you are infertile can come as a shock especially if you are ready to have kids but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. It might be hard to deal with the emotions that come with this realization especially for men who sometimes find it hard to show it outwardly or discuss it openly. They might have feelings of guilt, anxiety, sadness and many roller coaster of emotions even though they outwardly project themselves as the strong, stoic type. Your doctor might suggest trying invitro fertilization (IVF) to have a baby. However, there are some things that can be done to improve the chances of conception as well as support your partner as she seems to be doing the bulk of the work for undergoing IVF.
What’s involved in IVF
Pretesting- Before starting IVF, a number of tests will be done to try to find out the cause for infertility and also to see if everything is within normal limits. The men will be asked to provide a sperm sample for the lab to evaluate. They will check the sperm for motility, shape, count and many other features. You might need to have blood work done to check hormone levels, as well as test for infectious diseases or genetic testing. Similar tests will be done on the woman to check her ovaries, blood tests, the quantity and quality of eggs present etc.
Once these pre-tests are carried out and everything looks normal, it’s time to move on to the actual IVF procedure. The woman’s ovaries will be stimulated with hormone injections so that multiple eggs will mature at the same time. When the eggs are mature, they are retrieved and they will take your sperm sample at the same time. The eggs and sperm will then be fertilized in a lab setting to produce embryos and they will be monitored to make sure they are healthy and viable. The embryo will then in turn be placed back in the woman’s uterus for implantation. If there are extra embryos left over, it could be frozen and used at a later date. Then there will be a nail biting 2 week wait to see if there was successful implantation and conception.
What can the man do?
First of all, try to start making changes at least 3 months before going for an IVF treatment because it takes anywhere from 42 to 76 days for sperm to go from production to maturation.
Here are some things a man can do to improve fertility
- Prepare physically – Make some lifestyle changes like quit smoking, excessive drinking, doing recreational drugs, cut back on caffeine and try to eat healthy foods like lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid red meat and eat lean proteins like fish and poultry. Avoid refined sugars, processed and fried foods as well as junk foods and bakery items. Drink lots of water. Get enough sleep of 7 to 8 hours daily because it can affect one’s testosterone levels and sperm quality. Maintain a healthy body mass index(BMI) which is a measure of your body fat based on height and weight. If you are obese, try to lose some weight. Do moderate exercise daily to keep yourself healthy. Some chemicals and toxins can affect your hormones and sperm quality. So try to remove them from your home or stay away from them in your workplace. Take a men’s multivitamin and talk to your doctor about the effects of any medication you are taking on sperm health like steroids, thyroid medicine, antidepressants or others. Try to reduce any stress in your life. Don’t stay in hot temperature environments like saunas because it can affect sperm health. Also an abstinence period of about 2 days before sperm retrieval is usually advised.
- Prepare emotionally and mentally- Going through an IVF procedure can be emotionally draining especially if the first round of IVF was unsuccessful. IVF is not a guarantee to have a baby and it might take several rounds of IVF. So try to plan ahead by discussing with your partner and your specialist about how many rounds of IVF you are willing to try. Ask how many embryos will be transferred into the uterus and what will happen to any leftover embryos. It’s better to think about these things beforehand rather than making decisions at the last minute under duress. Feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and sadness might wash over you at different times but know that these are all normal emotions. Try to be supportive of your partner and let her know that you are there for them and ask her how you can support her. Communicate your feelings openly and listen to your partner’s needs. You can help manage appointments and help out with the chores around the house. Doing some research about what is involved in IVF, reading blogs can help you be better prepared for the IVF journey. However, do not do too much digital searching during the cycle as it may sometimes add to more stress. Plan out what questions you need to ask your specialist together and take notes as to the do’s and don’ts. Find out if there are any side effects of the medications and any other tests that might need to be done. If you feel it’s too much to handle, seek professional counselling or find a support group. You don’t need to suffer in silence.
So there are many things men can do while going through IVF. If you have any questions for your particular situation or anything else in general, feel free to talk to the experts at Xenith Advanced Fertility Centre.