KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 – Infertility is a topic of paramount importance that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While both men and women can experience fertility challenges, male infertility has long been an overlooked and often misunderstood aspect of this multifaceted issue.
Sunfert International Fertility Centre (Sunfert) calls for increased awareness on the rise of male infertility. The goal is to empower couples looking to have children with knowledge and encourage them to seek professional help if experiencing difficulties in conceiving.
It is commonly misconceived that infertility is predominantly a female issue, but in reality, the chances of infertility are equally split between couples, with a 50-50 ratio. Infertility can impact anyone, regardless of gender or age. Men play an equally important role in the fertility equation.
Male infertility stands as a prevalent issue that impacts couples globally, including in Malaysia. Startling findings from the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development in Malaysia reveal that 60 per cent of sperm analysis tests conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) exhibited abnormal results, emphasising the urgency to address this widespread concern.
“Is male infertility on the rise? The answer is a resounding yes, and its impact is undeniably real,” said Dr Eeson Sinthamoney, director and fertility specialist at Sunfert.
“As societal and environmental factors continue to evolve, we are witnessing a steady increase in the prevalence of male infertility cases. It is crucial that we recognise and tackle this issue head-on, providing comprehensive support and tailored solutions to individuals and couples navigating the challenges of infertility.”
Unravelling The Causes Of Male Infertility
Male infertility can be attributed to various biological factors, including genetic abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, anatomical issues, and underlying medical conditions. Additionally, lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet can have a significant impact on male fertility.
“While body weight does not primarily affect infertility in men, lifestyle choices like engaging in frequent and long bicycle rides can have an impact. A simple sperm test serves as the initial step in assessing sperm count and overall fertility health,” said Dr Eason.
The next step involves evaluating functionality and examining potential underlying issues, such as hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, and semen parameters.
By conducting a comprehensive analysis of these aspects, your doctor can gain valuable insights into the specific causes contributing to infertility. This thorough examination enables personalised treatment approaches tailored to address the unique factors influencing male infertility.”
A Pathway To Parenthood For Male Infertility
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) offer a ray of hope for individuals and couples facing male infertility. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure where concentrated sperm is directly placed into the uterus, increasing the chances of fertilisation within a natural environment.
On the other hand, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a widely embraced and well-known procedure that has brought joy to almost 10 million babies born worldwide. IVF involves the fertilisation of eggs and sperm outside the body, followed by the transfer of resulting embryos into the uterus.
The success rates for both IUI and IVF vary depending on individual factors such as the female partner’s age, overall health, and the specific cause of infertility. By considering these assisted reproductive technologies, men can explore alternative paths to parenthood and embark on a journey that aligns with their unique circumstances and lifestyle choices.
Expanding On Genetic Testing For Male Infertility
Genetic testing can play a crucial role in the diagnosis and management of severe male infertility. It involves analysing an individual’s genetic material, such as DNA or chromosomes, to identify any genetic abnormalities that may contribute to infertility.
Advancements in sperm preservation techniques, such as cryopreservation, have also revolutionised the field of male infertility. Cryopreservation involves freezing and storing sperm samples for future use.
This technique is particularly beneficial for men who are undergoing treatments that may impact their fertility, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. By preserving sperm, individuals can maintain the possibility of starting a family even after potential fertility-compromising treatments.
Empowerment And Support
Seeking emotional support is a crucial aspect of navigating the challenges of male infertility. Counselling and therapy will provide a safe space for men or their partners to express their emotions, share experiences, and gain valuable insights into coping strategies.
Managing stress and adopting healthy coping mechanisms can help alleviate the emotional burden. Techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and engaging in hobbies or physical activities can provide much-needed respite and promote overall well-being.
“While the topic of infertility has gained significant attention in recent years, the focus has often centred around women’s experiences. However, it is equally crucial to understand men’s perceptions towards infertility and how it impacts their emotional well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life,” Dr Eeson said.
The Autonomy Of Fertility Choices
When it comes to matters of fertility, the decisions surrounding parenthood are profoundly personal and unique to each individual. These choices encompass considerations such as whether to have children, the timing of starting a family, and how to navigate the complexities of infertility.
It is imperative to acknowledge and uphold the autonomy of individuals and couples when making decisions about their reproductive health.
The landscape of fertility and conception has significantly changed over the past 30 years, Dr Eeson pointed out. Couples now tend to opt for smaller families, with one or two children, compared to previous generations’ preference for four to five children.
He added that men are now more open to seeking consultations, providing sperm samples, and exploring the next steps in their fertility treatment.
“To all men facing infertility, there is no need to feel shy or embarrassed. Embrace the transformative journey towards parenthood, as numerous possibilities exist for starting a family.”
LPPKN Subfertility Services
Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Aiman Athirah Sabu, recently told Parliament, that between 1979 (when it first began offering subfertility services) and April 2023, LPPKN facilities have provided its subfertility services to 40,576 new cases and 262,657 repeat cases.
The number of new cases estimated is about 1,500 to 2,000 cases annually, which shows that LPPKN’s subfertility services get consistent responses, with repeated cases going up to 9,000 cases each year, said Aiman.