When a man gets married, he and his wife will expect the cry of a baby after nine months. But after one or two years, and the babies are not forthcoming, all eyes will turn to the wife as being responsible for lack of childbearing due to her infertility. But more often than not, the problem might be with the man but nobody will look towards his direction. In some cases, the woman will be maltreated and even be chased away from the marriage but the problem of infertility is not peculiar to women as there are men out there that are suffering from infertility just like women.
In this virtual and revealing interview with Prime Health News Magazine, conducted by the Editor, Victor Anya; Dr. Tuyi Mebawondu, speaks on the causes of infertility in men, why men are not suspected when a marriage is unfruitful and how to solve the problem of infertility in men. Also, he talks on why women are usually blamed and maltreated for childlessness in marriages. Read the interview to the end as you are assured to gain one or two things from it.
Having a holistic view of infertility in marriage, how will you define infertility?
Infertility is the inability of a couple to conceive or carry a baby to live birth despite consistent and unprotected sexual intercourse for one year. If they are not married for one year, we don’t classify them as infertile. If they do not have adequate intercourse for at least 2 or 3 times a week, they would not be called infertile. Even if the sexual exposure is adequate and any of the couple is using contraceptives, they will never be called infertile.
When a marriage is unfruitful, all eyes will turn to the woman as the cause of the childlessness even though the man may be the cause, nobody looks towards his direction as the cause, why is this so?
We live in a patriarchal society where women are usually derided and labelled as the cause of infertility. Most of these mindsets are caused by cultural factors. Scientifically, causes of infertility are equally divided between the man and the woman, 50% apiece.
Secondly, we have refused to apply scientific knowledge to address our problems. We dwell on false comfort of superstitions and ignorance.
If men are infertile like women, what is infertility in men?
Simply put, for pregnancy to occur, a man must be able to supply healthy sperms in the right quantity, morphology, speed and shape that are deposited in the female reproductive system to fertilize the eggs.
When any of these is deficient, the man is considered infertile. He is unable to make his partner pregnant.
What is the cause (s) of infertility in men?
As stated in the previous post above, causes of male infertility could be broadly divided into two categories. First, inability to produce healthy sperms and second, inability to have erection, ejaculate and deposit sperm inside the female reproductive organ.
Under the first category, causes of infertility includes: infections, hormonal disorder, immune disorders, undescended testis, tumours, chronic smoking and alcohol consumption, steroid use, toxins, marijuana consumption etc.
Under the second category, issues like malformation, hypospadias, generic problems, blockage of the passage tube can cause infertility.
When a marriage is not productive, the woman will be running up and down for medical checkups in order to find a solution for the problem but the man will blatantly refused to go for medical checkups on the ground that nothing is wrong with him. Why are some men taking such a hard line position in matters like this?
Check and treatment for infertility should involve the couple. The first part is thorough explanations and education for them to understand the process of checks. Everybody must be ready to do their parts.
What is your advice for men and their family members who chase away their wives even when they haven’t subjected themselves for fertility test to know their fertility status?
This is totally wrong both morally and spiritually. Marriage is for better and for worse. Endurance is key. I think fertility check should be an integral part of prenuptial counseling and check. This will prepare the couple for the eventualities in marriage.
At what time in a marriage should the couple go for fertility test?
To reduce tension in a marriage, couple should know their fertility status before getting married. Sometimes, when they are in love, they can choose other means of having a baby even when having problem with fertility. Adoption, IVF and surrogacy are modern examples. There are couples who have decided not to have any child and will still remain happy in the marriage.
What is the difference between infertility and barrenness?
Infertility, the problem can still be corrected. But bareness is permanent. Such a problem will have to affect both couples and irreversible before they can be tagged “barren.”
One of the causes of infertility in men is low sperm count, what is low sperm count?
For a man to impregnate a lady, the ejaculated sperm must satisfy some criteria. The sperm must be of normal volume (quantity), count, shape, movement and liquefaction. The volume must be 2 to 5mls per ejaculation. Count must be 15-200 million per ml or a minimum of 39 million per ejaculation, this is considered as low sperm count. In some cases, there will not be sperm cells at all. This is called azospermia and it is very difficult to treat.
What should a man that is suffering from low sperm count do to boost his sperm count?
The first thing is to check how low the sperm is. Secondly, it is important to check the likely cause of the low sperm count. Generally, good food, fruits and vegetables, avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption is very important.
The person suffering from low sperm count should also desist from wearing tight underwear and stop taking steroids. Specific cause of low sperm count like varicose veins can be treated.
Since couples bear children at different times, at what time in a man’s life should he be declared as barren?
Men are a bit lucky as they can produce sperm up to old age. But the quality of sperm decreases from age 40. This is worse in smokers, drinkers and those with chronic illnesses like diabetes.
In Vitro fertilization (IVF) is very expensive but it has helped many couples to bear children, though the rate of failure is high too. Doctor, will you advise a couple that can afford IVF to go for it as many times as they can afford it till they get positive result?
IVF could be so traumatic for the couple after repeated failures. Counseling pre and post IVF is most desired. They should interface with their gynaecologist to fashion the best way and how many times they can do it. The cost is so challenging.
What is your advice for couples that can’t afford IVF?
Adoption is a clear option if they cannot endure staying without a child.
Adoption of children is one other means couples can have children but many couples frown at it because they consider it as anti-African culture. What is your advice for such couples?
The attitude is changing. Stigma is the main obstacle preventing couples from embracing adoption. The other factor is the impediment and bureaucracy at the level of government.
Working with a hospital, you must be very busy. How do you relax after a busy day job?
Burnout, depression, and demotivation are real among health workers. The work pressure and expectations are very high. Whenever you have time to sleep, take it seriously and never allow interruption as much as possible. Eat well and engage your family. Exercise, especially aerobic ones.
Some busy people like you relax with country music or soul music. What genre of music appeals to you?
I am very eclectic when it comes to music. I see it as a universal language that can touch one no matter the genre. Jazz and classics are favourites. It allows communion with your inner self. Igor Stravinsky, Gojira, Spyrogyra are great delights for me. We grew up with Juju music of Obey and Sunny. But nowadays, I listen to music of the sphere a lot.
Who is your greatest musician of all times?
Bob Marley and Fela Kuti provide timeless music that has contents, messages and entertainment. Ligali Mukaiba, Theophilous Iwalokun and Lelerekoko are delights anytime. They are adepts in music.
While some workaholics like you unwind after a busy day work with music, others watch sports. Which of the sports do you relax with?
I love nature and sightseeing a lot. Expansive Oceans, beaches and waves calm me. Silence in the jungle and birds speak to me and elevate my thoughts. My most relaxing activities are those concerned with “entering” into Nature and her beauty.
Boxing and Sprints are wonderful outdoor sports. Boxing is 90% intelligence and 10% fitness. The GOAT, Cassius Clay later known as Mohammed Ali was truly an enigma. He brought class, activism, savvy and poetry into the ring. He elevated the arts and sciences of boxing. He rewrote strategies of the ring. Truly, he was the Greatest Of All Times (G.O.A.T). He stood out as my sport personality of All times (SPOAT).
Husain Bolt showed humility, grace and discipline in one of the most exerting sports-100m sprint. He is well admired by me. I love boxing and sprint.
And your greatest sportsman or sportswoman is who?
Without doubt, Mohammed Ali and Husain Bolt stand out.