Updated: Jan 21, 2020
You’ve been happily married for 7 years; you and your wife have 3 beautiful children together aged 5, 4 and 3 years. You have a great job that you are flourishing in, and you have started investing in property for your children's future. Life is good! It is a Saturday afternoon and you are on your way to meet up with your younger brother, Dan, to watch a football game and have some “guy” time.
After the game Dan says he needs to talk to you about something important and he looks distressed. You move over into the dining room and he begins to share. Paul, as you know, my wife and I have been married for 2 years now, but we have not yet been successful in starting a family. The other day, she persuaded me to go with her to a fertility clinic, just to make sure everything is ok. I was a bit apprehensive, but I went anyway. Better to know if something is wrong than to be oblivious, right? After consulting with the clinic, the doctor asked me for a sperm sample. That was an interesting experience, but I provided it anyway. The results came back and it turns out I have a condition called “stunted tail spermatozoa”. Now you are getting really concerned too and so you ask, what does that mean. Dan replies, it means the tail of my sperm is short, so my sperm cannot swim far enough to reach the egg to make my wife pregnant. She did some checks too and turns out she is fine. Ok, so are there treatment options? Dan replies, Paul - this condition is hereditary. What do you mean hereditary? It means, you probably have it too and if you do, you are not able to father children without medical assistance. Your eyes widen and you start breathing deeply; what are you telling me Dan?! Paul, I do not want to speculate but what the doctor told me is that there is no way we can have children naturally with this condition. You cannot believe your ears! For what happens next, I will let you be the judge.
Dear men, please attend to your reproductive health too.
You might be surprised to know that 50% of infertility cases are male related. Unfortunately for us, we live in a society (Africa) where infertility is always assumed to be a woman issue. When you got married, your wife started to realize she was not getting pregnant. She began to get scared because it had been 2 years into the marriage and your family (her in-laws) had started pressuring her. So, she sought advice from her mother, who suggested she go get checked with a gynaecologist. Her doctor said everything is ok with her and maybe she needs to bring you in for a checkup too. She tried to bring it up with you, but you were offended and accused her of insulting you. She then confided in a friend who advised her to find another man, get pregnant by him but claim the child is yours. Your wife was scared of losing you and her marriage so she obliged. Now 7 years down the road, the reality has come back to haunt you. You love your “children” very much and they love you but now Dan has turned your world upside down!
This is how many couples in our society deal with male infertility. Because there is a lack of awareness that male infertility exists. For those that know – they believe it cannot happen to them. Even if they consider it, it scares them to think that their manhood might be taken away once they find out. Many men choose not to know forcing their wives to deal with the consequences of not taking action or seeking help. However, in 21st century let us become real and transparent about these issues. Of course, chances are that this could never happen to you but what if it did? Men too should pay attention to their reproductive health in the same way that women do. Before you get married or start a family – seek help. A sperm test is a simple, inexpensive procedure carried out in an hour and will confirm to you the status of your sperm as well as save you a lot of headache in the future. Isn’t it better to know ahead of time than 7, 15 or even 40 years down the road? Ignorance might be bliss until “Dan” drops the ball on you.
Now, for all the men who are further down the journey, it may be advisable not to check. It is not our intention to disrupt happy homes or raise suspicion. But for all the young men out there and fathers of young men – do check the status of your reproductive health. And if you get married and have challenges starting a family, do not let fear worsen the situation. Fertility centres are here to help not hurt. Support your wife and figure it out together. Or else she will be forced to find a solution alone if it turns out that you are the one who needs help. And now, you are Paul.
Margaret Mutumba MPH, PhD (c)
Founder | Infertility Advocate