#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

'Where there's one sperm there's a way': Male infertility is common but treatable

A doctor from Cork Fertility Centre said the procedure for men to get checked out is “non-invasive and not expensive compared to what a female has to do”.

Image: Shutterstock/Yuri Chen

INFERTILITY AMONG MEN is a common issue but it’s one that is rarely talked about.

Head of Laboratory Services at Cork Fertility Centre Dr Tim Dineen told TheJournal.ie that men are far slower to seek help compared to women and that finding out they are infertile can have a massive impact on a man’s opinion of himself.

However, he also stressed that treatment is straightforward and usually very successful.

Dineen said, ”Men tend to take a back seat role when couples are looking at fertility issues but male infertility is common.

About one in six couples have trouble conceiving and approximately 30% are due to a male factor.

“Generally speaking it’s the women that want to seek help in trying to address the problem if the couple realise conceiving is taking longer than expected.”

However, Dineen pointed out that the procedure for men to get checked out is “non-invasive and not expensive compared to what a female has to do”.

“We just need a semen sample but sometimes men are not able to produce when they’re told to produce due to the environment.

“From an investigation point of view it’s pretty straight forward and it gives us an indication of what the problem may be.

“Some guys may already be aware there could be an issue there, for example if a guy is diagnosed with CF, but the majority of men will come to the clinic not expecting that there’s an issue.”


Being diagnosed as infertile can have a very negative impact on men.

Discussing a study that looked at men’s reactions to infertility, Dineen said that if a man is not expecting it, there can be low self esteem, a loss of confidence and a sense of guilt.

He added that there’s a tight link between virility and fertility, “It can be taken as an attack on their masculinity”.

Dineen said that generally speaking the majority of women he sees would be most concerned with having children and experiencing parenthood while many men want to get their partner pregnant.

Women are also more open about discussing fertility treatments – whereas men feel they are not able to bring that up in conversation.

“It varies somewhat- we have some guys who come through who are really open about it. There probably still needs to be a bit of work done but it is common, it’s not unusual.

“We would always encourage guys who have been given a notice of infertility – to talk about it and not to just keep it in themselves, sharing it with somebody does help.”


He also explained that while it can be difficult to find why the sperm count is low or why a man is infertile, it can often be straightforward to treat.

“For a number of cases we see it’s difficult to find a reason and then correct the problem.

“Assisted reproductive technology is successful in overcoming the problem … we might struggle to tell him why his sperm count is so low but we can treat it.

Where there’s one sperm there’s a way – whereas it’s more difficult from the female perspective.
If we can get sperm to work with at all – we are optimistic we can get there.

“We do say that – if nothing has been picked up on her side and it’s solely the male problem – the chances of success are high.”

He explained that diet, exercise, smoking, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can all have an effect, adding that even going into saunas and steam rooms – if done a lot – can make a difference.

Dineen also encouraged men who intend to be fathers to have a sperm analysis early on as it will get a couple onto treatment earlier and that’s important as the quality of eggs in women deteriorate with age.

He concluded that, “It’s the end result which is the main thing and making that transition to parenthood – people shouldn’t hold off on getting there”.

Read: Woman gives birth to baby using ovarian tissue frozen when she was a child>

About the author:

Read next: