The other half: Male infertility

The Jewish Fertility Foundation helps provide funding for fertility treatments and emotional support to individuals and couples experiencing infertility. Some ways we offer support are through support groups led by licensed infertility therapists, the Fertility Buddies peer-to-peer mentorship program (with currently over 75 active participants), and online support.

We find it interesting to note JFF’s emotional support programming is used primarily by woman, while men generally reach out to discuss our Fertility Grants program. We found that men are overwhelmingly reluctant to open up about infertility issues. Is it possible they don’t feel the same emotional pain as acutely as women? Or are men just not as comfortable discussing it? Or both?

Perhaps one reason women tend to seek emotional support is because child bearing is integral to many womens’ sense of purpose and the potential loss of this primary purpose is devastating. Some studies have even suggested that infertility for some women manifests itself as if they’re suffering from a deadly disease. So, it isn’t surprising that our female clients feel a deep rooted need for understanding and support…

But how can we can better serve our male clients?

Have suggestions or thoughts? Contact me Elana Frank, Executive Director & Founder, Jewish Fertility Foundation


JFF Summer PR & Marketing Intern, Noam Kleinman interviews Dr. Akanksha Mehta, Assistant Professor of Urology Director, Emory University School of Medicine

Noam: So, I’ve been charged with the task of interviewing you to learn more about male infertility.

Can you tell me what is male factor infertility?

Dr. Mehta: Male factor infertility refers to any health issue in a man that lowers the chances of his female partner getting pregnant.

Noam: Is it common?

Dr. Mehta: Yes, it is present in over one third of couples who have trouble conceiving.

Noam: What are some cause of male factor infertility?

Dr. Mehta: Normal male reproductive function is dependent on the interaction between genetic factors, circulating hormone levels, and environmental influences. As a result, many different causes of male factor infertility are possible.

Noam: Is there anything that can be done to help?

Dr. Mehta: Workup for male infertility includes a detailed physical exam, combined with semen analysis, serum hormone evaluation, and, if indicated, additional genetic testing, imaging, or tissue biopsy. Taken together, the results of this evaluation can help identify correctable causes of male infertility.

Noam: So infertility can affect men just as it can affect women?

Dr. Mehta: Historically, discussions about infertility have focused on female factor infertility. However, infertility is clearly a problem shared by the couple, and must be faced as a team. A diagnosis of male factor infertility affects all aspects of a man’s life.

Noam: In what ways does infertility affect a man’s life?

Dr. Mehta: Medically, a diagnosis of infertility can be worrisome because it may be an indicator of a potentially serious underlying medical condition. Psychologically, a diagnosis of infertility can lead to profound feelings of guilt, anger, and low self-esteem.

Noam: Do you have any parting information or advice for someone who may have infertility?

Dr. Mehta: Many male fertility issues can be treated medically or surgically by a urologist. Therefore, couples who experience difficulty conceiving should not hesitate to seek a male fertility evaluation in addition to a female fertility evaluation.

Additional Information about Male Factor Infertility:

Low levels, or complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate, can be due to a blockage or a production problem. Even if sperm are present in normal numbers in the semen, they may be abnormal in their ability to swim to and fertilize an egg. Some of the most commonly encountered male infertility problems are summarized below:

  • Blockages in the male reproductive tract can be congenital, or result from prior infection, trauma, or surgery. In many cases, blockages in the reproductive tract can be corrected with reconstructive surgery. When reconstructive surgery is not possible, sperm can be retrieved through an office-based procedure, for use with fertility treatments.
  • A varicocele refers to abnormal veins surrounding one or both testes. They have the potential to decrease testicular function, both in terms of hormone production and sperm production. Varicoceles are the most common surgically correctable cause of male infertility, and varicocele repair is associated with improvement in both sperm count and quality.
  • Problems with circulating hormone levels can occur for a variety of reasons, but can often be treated with hormone supplementation that supports and enhances testicular function, including sperm production.
  • There are many medical conditions and medical treatments that can impair sperm production and sperm quality. Of these, a diagnosis of cancer is probably the most devastating. There are several different options for fertility preservation for men with a history of cancer, as well as those about to embark on cancer therapy, to provide them with options for family building in the future. Fertility preservation is also possible for men with non-cancer based diagnoses that affect their fertility, such as Klinefelter syndrome.
  • Sexual disorders, such as problems with ejaculation, can affect the ability of sperm to naturally reach and fertilize the egg in the female reproductive tract. Medications or office-based procedures can be used to treat ejaculatory problems and help couples achieve pregnancy.​
About the Author
Elana Bekerman Frank, MPA, is quite vocal about her fertility struggle and her desire to help others. Elana has over 15 years of experience working with non-profits (in America and in Israel) in fundraising, marketing, community outreach, volunteer recruitment, training and program development. She is the Founder and President of the Jewish Fertility Foundation and resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband Jason and their two children, Levi and Avidan.
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