What I have learnt about Male Fertility- Let’s all Talk February By Sophie Sulehria
I’m back this month with another blog about The Fertility Show’s “Let’s All Talk” free weekly webinar series. I am Sophie, a journalist, fertility patient and Ambassador for Peanut App, the social networking space for women to meet other women trying to conceive. They are sponsoring the talks across 2021. I am hosting the events alongside Jessica Hepburn, who is an author, one of the founders of Fertility Fest, and the content creator at The Fertility Show. Each month we change the topic, and bring you great experts across that month who give their insight and knowledge on that topic. In February we covered Male Factor Fertility, and this is what I learnt…
1) DO NOT SAY FACTOR - Well firstly I learnt not to call it male factor fertility! This was a phrase I was using a lot when promoting the events, quickly corrected by Professor Sheena Lewis (aka Professor Sperm) who said it was a dismissive term created by gynaecologists who historically focussed on women, and grouped the ‘male side of things’ together under the sub heading ‘factor’. It turns out, there is a whole myriad of issues that men can suffer with when it comes to their fertility, and often their problems are as detailed and complex as women, we are just led to believe this is not the case.
2) ANDROLOGISTS FOR ALL - another thing Prof Lewis wanted to see were Andrologists inserted into all fertility clinics across the UK. Side note: if you don’t know what an Andrologist is, it’s a medical specialist that deals with problems of the male reproductive system. The idea that women have access to a gynaecologist so easily during treatment but there is not the same equivalent for a man is actually pretty appalling.
3) VARICOCELE - I had never heard of this term before February, but Professor Henkel taught us that varicocele is a common problem, which can lead to testicular heat stress. To get technical, it’s an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds your testicles, similar to a varicose vein you might see in your leg. It can also be an issue when it comes to male fertility as it can cause of low sperm production and decreased sperm quality. Luckily they can be treated / removed once you know they’re there. Or sometimes point 4 will help…
4) UNDERWEAR - another way to help varicocele / testicular heat stress is to wear the right underwear. Professor Henkel told us that for a low grade varicocele, sometimes you don’t need surgical correction, but can instead treat with loose and cooling underwear. He told us about a specialist pair of pants that have cool packs inserted, which cools down the testicles, helping them function properly again. They are called “Snowballs”! We wait to hear how they fair under clinical trials!
5) QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS - I have heard time after time how men are ignored by the doctors in clinic. Even if the man is the reason you’re in the fertility clinic in the first place! Patient Richard Clothier told us to make yourself heard and be seen to be involved. Ask as many questions as your partner, preplan these if necessary. But make sure the doctor knows you are involved, that you’re there, and that you want to be seen.
6) SUPPORT - Richard was also a strong advocate for male peer to peer support. He helps run a very successful men only Facebook group where people can ask questions and get help and support from one another. He said that men rarely want to talk about these types of issues and their feelings surrounding fertility. It’s important to find like minded people who get you, and can be there for you when you get low.
7) THE POWER OF HYPNOSIS - there are so many great resources in the fertility sphere. This month on “Let’s All Talk” Book Club we spoke to Russell Davis about his book “Conceivable”. Russell was a fertility patient who turned his career into helping others after his experience with infertility. He now works as a fertility hypnotist, to get people in the right frame of mind before and during treatment. While I don’t agree that being relaxed will end all issues, I do think there’s something to be said for feeling calm and less anxious. Anything that can do that is always a bonus, not just in fertility treatment, but in life!
8) RHOD GILBERT - I can’t go without giving a huge nod to Rhod. On the same week we kicked off our male fertility focus webinars, Rhod’s wonderful documentary “Stand Up to Infertility” aired across the BBC. Rhod made the doc before lockdown, as they were about to start treatment. He visited The Fertility Show as part of his investigation and met lots of wonderful men, keen to raise awareness of male fertility - 50% of the problem. Now his campaign “HIM Fertility” has been taken on by The Fertility Network, which encourages men to open up about male infertility and get support.
For those of you who missed this month’s sessions, we have uploaded them all to The Fertility Show’s YouTube Channel for you to watch back. Meanwhile we head into March, when the focus will be “Female Fertility”. We have another great lineup of speakers, ready to share their knowledge on a range of female issues that can affect fertility. To book this plus watch the rest of content from The Fertility Show, here’s the link: https://linktr.ee/TheFertilityShow