The common statistics that get quoted for causes of infertility breakdown is as follows, according to ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine):
- “In approximately 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.
- Infertility affects men and women equally.
- Twenty-five percent of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility.”
These are the numbers that we hear over and over again. Confirmed statistics. Resolve’s (Resolve- The National Infertility Association) quick facts lead back to both ASRM and SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology).
And they all say the same thing.
Male factor infertility contributes about 40% of the time.
Male Factor Infertility
Interesting conversation ensued between Amy Klein and me last week regarding male factor infertility. Ms. Klein has been a regular contributor to the online NYTimes, “Motherlode” blog. She experienced her own infertility and has written poignantly and powerfully about the experience, as well as writing on the subject less subjectively. Full disclosure? I love her writing and her voice- I’m totally a fan.
Our argument, slash conversation, was over a new study reported on last week by ASRM.
Ms. Klein tweeted about the study and I chimed in with some basic, very middle of the road, accepted statistics. 40% male factor contributes to infertility problems.
And she said no.
No? Huh? I looked further into the report that she had quoted. It was one of those perfect and rare moments that everyone got to be right.
This study was done at the Stanford Fertility and Reproductive Health Center. Our conversation was regarding one statistic cited in this study, 7.2% which referred to the male factor infertility in the 2,690 men who were studied. So, yes, in this study, 7.2% was correct.
How Men's Overall Health Impacts IVF Success
For such a short synopsis of a study, it was very densely packed with provocative information. Provocative in that there are lots of hints of what male factor infertility may or may not be, all needing more research with bigger numbers of men studied.
This report does not say that male factor infertility only contributes to 7.2% of infertility. What it says is that in this study, only 7.2% of the men participating had male factor infertility. The point of this study was to examine the men’s other medical problems and to relate how those problems affected the ability to achieve successful and healthy pregnancies.
I thank Ms. Klein for tweeting about this and drawing my attention to this study- it has some remarkable implications. We know so very little about how endocrine, respiratory, cardiac or many other diseases affect a man’s sperm or after that, their children. The term comorbidity starts to be considered, where there is more than one disease or medical problem. How do they interact? What are the potential outcomes for their children? Or even grandchildren given what we are learning about genes and gene mutations.
We don’t know enough. That’s what we know. Here’s ASRM President, Owen K. Davis, MD “Many studies have shown that men’s health can impact sperm production and quality. But up until now, there has been little data on the ways a man’s overall, systemic health can affect his reproductive outcomes. Larger studies and more research are needed to give us insight into how treating various health conditions may affect men’s IVF outcomes.”
Loved having this conversation with Ms. Klein last week.
Her last words to me, via twitter?
“I don’t think anyone really know. (anything)
“Just wish they’d admit it”
I think they’ve done just that. We found out a little more and it reveals how much more we need to ask, think about and research.
Social media at it’s best- Thanks Amy Klein.