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Why we can’t forget about infertility from a male perspective

When we think of infertility, the focus tends to be on the female side of the equation. She can't have kids. She's undergone three rounds of IVF. Poor her.

But as many heterosexual couples spending time in fertility clinics come to know, wannabe fathers can also be the source of infertility – and they can psychologically suffer just as much as their female partners.

We now know that about 30 per cent of infertility can be attributed to male factors, according to U.S. non-profit site Resolve. (About 30 per cent can be liked to female factors, 20 per cent is unexplained and the last 10 per cent is a combination of problems in both partners.)

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With the news Thursday that Toronto scientists have zeroed in on two proteins that could help identify male infertility, one potentially physically painful aspect of fertility treatment may be rendered obsolete.

One of the scientists, Dr. Keith Jarvi of Mount Sinai Hospital, says that a commercial test based on the findings "will dramatically reduce the need for testicular biopsies in men with fertility issues," reports Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press.

They "will also be able to identify men for whom invasive sperm retrieval operations are likely to fail and therefore probably shouldn't be tried."

The piece details the painful-sounding procedure and is a glimpse into what infertile men have been going through.

For another set of insights, New York Times infertility blogger Amy Klein recently turned her spotlight on her husband, Solomon. In a world dominated by the female experience, their Q&A is a poignant reminder that it takes two to tango, even when a test tube is involved.

When asked what the hardest part for him has been, he replies:

"When you called me to tell me there was no heartbeat [at the nine-week miscarriage] .… that was my kid! I was devastated. The next time I was more prepared.

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Sometimes I feel despair because there's nothing I can do to fix this. I have my bad days but I tend not to share them with you. I know that you go through a lot of bad stuff yourself. I usually process my stuff myself. That's just the way I am."

And to the question of "What would you tell men going through infertility and in-vitro fertilization?" he says:

"You're dealing with probabilities here, so don't look for immediate success. It's a process. You have to be very patient, to expect failure as part of it. You really have to allocate time for this. You have to be extremely open to listen to your partner's feelings, whatever they are, even if it's not always positive. I was taken aback at you getting upset about your friend getting pregnant. But I thought about where you were coming from and tried not to fault you for it."

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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