ZERO TO HERO… One woman’s tale about male infertility

by Shawna Hamilton B.A., BKin, H.D on October 21, 2010

Shawna and Magnus

Dearest Dads,

Well, it has been a while since my last post, and I do apologize. Professionally, I seem to always be busy, I’m sure we have that in common right? While it’s my mission to deliver as much fun and informative fitness chatter as I can to keep you healthy and fit, today I am going to share with you something that is very personal and close to my heart.

I’ve had more on my plate than normal for quite some time. And it’s a particular ball in the air that I’d like to share with each of you today, because I sincerely feel I just might be able to offer a real life perspective about a very real  issue that effects many but is discussed openly by few, and that’s male infertility.

My husband and I are 35 and 37 years old respectively and have been trying to plan our family for over a year and a half. After trying naturally for over 9 months and getting nowhere, we began our quest for answers. After learning that all seemed well from my end, I forced my husband (who has no concept of time really, or interest in doctor’s offices) to make an appointment for his own check up.

Via his GP, his first semen analysis came back dreadfully low, practically nil. Astonishing!

Two more samples were immediately taken, as something must have gotten mixed up! My 285lb, retired professional wrestler and ultra fit husband who makes a living training competitive bodybuilders and helps me run a health and wellness business CANNOT be what he thought, was low in testosterone! Needless to say, we learned that testosterone levels in a man have absolutely nothing to do with infertility! Did you know that? There are a few causes such as genetic defects, hormonal imbalances, anatomical problems and another being that it can be unexplainable, just like it is for us. Nonetheless, we were told that luckily we can have a child together, but that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was our only choice, ($10,000  per cycle—pray that it only takes one!) yikes!

Did you know that Caucasian men of Northern European decent are the most likely to be carriers of, or have Cystic Fibrosis (a debilitating disease that affects the entire body, and has a short life span?!) Men, who are carriers of this disease, although asymptomatic, can have a low sperm count because of it, as there is a strong correlation between the two. My husband’s urologist thought for sure his Icelandic background was the culprit. That blood test takes 3+ months to come back by the way! Interesting bed of pins and needles we were on last winter! But all is clear. Not a CF carrier, or threat of spreading a congenital disease, but a hefty dent in the bank account was vast encroaching!

So, this past February, we decided to take some of our own control over this situation. After some researching, my husband began to make some changes. The “tightey whities” went in the garbage, he let his old pal Jack Daniels collect dust in the bar cabinet, he tightened his diet and I had him on an entirely new supplement regimen. One filled with extra Zinc, Selenium, Folic Acid, B complex, and a high potency multivitamin. Another sample came back and we reached 1 million. Cool. We were happy, up is always better than down!

But in mid March, I learned of a very powerful antioxidant compilation called OPC-3. This OPC-3 had “increased sperm quality” in its literature, so he took the maximum dose for his size daily and his next sample was in early April, a short 5 weeks afterwards and it came back a whopping 10 million! Out of nowhere! Our good friends at Mt Sinai Infertility Clinic in Toronto, Ontario were flabbergasted.  We cant explain it, but in our personal experience, we truly believe that without OPC-3 my husband’s sperm count would NOT have risen from an average 300-500,000 to10 million! We agree a combination of everything was ideal. But we don’t think that this exponential surge happened without the aid of this particular antioxidant. It was the only addition to our baby program since all of the other analyses. If interested, it would be my pleasure to tell you more about it—Just ask!

So essentially, we were able to take IVF off of the table, and begin attempting Intrauterine Injections (IUI) in other words, insemination. With his strict new regimen, my husband continues to produce samples anywhere between 3-10 million and we are presently waiting for the outcome of our 3rd IUI.  Wish us luck! Even though IUI’s aren’t covered in our province, they are a fraction of the cost that we thought we were looking at which made our journey A LOT more bearable! So this was very exciting news!

But guys, this is a tough road. It’s a journey with your spouse that brings you both to a totally different place. My guy suffers silently with horrible feelings of emasculation, lack, unworthiness and somehow he feels he has let me down. I used to get upset with him when he would try and express himself because we were always coached to regard it as “our” infertility. I never faulted him for any of this. I was mad that he didn’t understand how much I loved him and how proud I am of him as a human being. But as a man, he claims those feelings never really go away and they never seem appropriate to bring up in the locker room or while out with the boys. My husband feels lonely in this particular realm of his/our life, as male infertility isn’t talked about very much. Even though it’s the easiest infertility obstacle you can have, as a woman’s reproductive system is so much more complicated. But, as women, we always seem to have the ability and the place to discuss our feelings. And there are more support groups available. Our own medical clinic agrees.

However, we encourage you to talk about it, understand it, be open. There is no shame to this at all. We learned that 1/6 North American couples require ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). Make a visit to your doctor’s office if you’re struggling with conception. In this race, there IS time is to lose. It’s never an easy fix and a lot of time, effort and diagnostic testing goes on and you need to allow yourselves the time to fulfill your process of elimination. We’re here for you. Please feel comfortable to reach out for me or for Magnus, my husband, if you need us. We’d love to help and offer you or a buddy you know of our support!

I sincerely appreciate your time this week. I feel better sharing what I can. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your stories, you will be glad you did.

Post a comment here or Email Me if you have any questions.

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