For long, women took the blame for the problem of infertility in the family. However, medical researches have proved that men could also be responsible for the problem in as equal measure as a woman.
The case of Kate and Kingsley Buraimoh comes to mind. The couple had no problem conceiving and giving birth to a healthy baby within 10 months of their marriage. As such, nobody suspected what the immediate problem was when the couple found it difficult to achieve pregnancy two years after the birth of their first child.
As usual, Kate was the one who went through a series of tests to determine if she had developed secondary infertility.
Things got to a head, however, when all the tests she did proved that she was perfectly normal to achieve another pregnancy whenever she wanted. Her husband became the focus and it turned out that he was the one having fertility challenge.
Welcome to the world of male infertility.
Fertility experts say it is very possible for a man who has had a child before to be unable to impregnate a woman.
They note that, for the average person, fertility usually declines with age; while some cases of infertility can be due to exposure to environmental factors or occupational factors that can damage the sperm-producing organs of the body.
“Whether you call it infertility or sub-fertility depends on whether there is sperm production or no sperm production at all. A man that produces sperm but in low quantity (oligospermia) is probably a case of sub-fertility; while total absence of sperm production (azoospermia) can be described as infertility,” says fertility expert, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru.
Oligospermia was what the doctors diagnosed in the case of Jide Olawoyin when his wife could not conceive months after their marriage.
Doctors had advised him and his wife to undergo routine tests to determine their fertility, but family pressure, which placed the blame at the doorsteps of the wife, would not let them.
Jide’s wife went through a painful Hysterosalpingography (HSG) processes, and was found to be normal. The searchlight turned to Jide, who was discovered to have abnormal sperm count.
Normal sperm count, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is characterised by the concentration of spermatozoa, which should be at least 20 million per ml.The total volume of semen should not be less than 2ml and the total number of spermatozoa in the semen should be at least 40 million.About 75 per cent of the spermatozoa should be alive; While 30 per cent of the spermatozoa should be of normal shape and form. At least 25 per cent of the spermatozoa should be swimming with rapid forward movement and 50 per cent of the spermatozoa should be swimming forward.
Ashiru says between 20 and 25 per cent of married couples have fertility challenge, with about 40 per cent of the causes due to male issue.
The Medical Director of Bridge Clinics, a fertility clinic based in Lagos, Dr. Richardson Ajayi, also confirms this view.
According to Ajayi, the commonest cause of infertility in our environment is infection. He says if infection isn’t treated early enough, it could cause abnormality in the sperm and consequently affect a man’s chances of becoming a dad.
Physicians lament that not many men are ready to join their wives when the need arises to seek treatment for infertility. Yet, they say, the result is faster when men are cooperative.
Such was the experience of Kate and her husband. Kate says when some tests were done on her husband, it turned out that his stress level was high, such that his fertility was compromised.
“He was placed on some drugs, which he had to take daily for a month,” Kate narrates.
Continuing, she says, “Kingsley found it difficult to adjust and he was always complaining that he couldn’t continue to swallow what looked to him like the female family planning pills.
“I encouraged him and within that month, I became pregnant again. That was after three years of trying for the second baby.” Now the couple has three children.
While the case of Kate and Kingsley ended on a rather good note, many couples have continued to grapple with the problem, sometimes resorting to spiritual means to solve a totally medical problem, with the attendant disruption of relationships and dissolution of marriages.
Emphasising the need for the male cooperation in fertility treatment, Consultant Urologist at Kelina Hospital in Gwarimpa, FCT, Dr. Celsus Undie, says it’s not all cases of infertility that necessitate treatment of the female.
Rather, Undie says, the couple may need to see a urologist who will perform certain tests and determine the right course of action.
Using himself as an example, the urologist says he and his wife had tried for five years to achieve pregnancy, but were unsuccessful.
“It was when I started training in urology that I realised that I needed to have surgical procedure before I could father a child.
“The surgery did not last an hour and we eventually achieved six pregnancies within six years, resulting in four live births,” he reveals.
The bottom line: Men must visit the physician with their wives whenever a case of infertility is suspected.