Male infertility: more common than you think
EDMONTON – Thirty-year-old Trevor Stoklosa has wanted to have his own children ever since he was little boy, but he never thought it would be so difficult.
“Started trying to have kids just before getting married, about a year after that, we realized that there might be something wrong,” he recalls.
After visiting a fertility specialist with his wife, Trevor learned that he had low testosterone levels – one of the potential causes of male infertility.
“It may be that the sperm count is low, or maybe the sperm don’t look normal, and of course, there’s cases where men have no sperm at all,” explains Dr. Cal Greene with Calgary’s Regional Fertility Program.
While genetics is usually to blame, hormones, injuries, infections, cancer treatments, even bike riding and excessive heat can also play a role in male infertility.
The good news is 99 per cent of male factor cases are treatable with procedures like ICSI.
“It stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection,” says Greene. “So we can take a single sperm and under the microscope, inject that sperm into the cytoplasm of the egg. This is a very efficient way of fertilizing an egg.”
After the fertilized egg is implanted into the woman’s body, there is a pregnancy success rate of 50 to 70 per cent.
The downside, however, is the cost.
Trevor and his 28 year-old wife Alisha were told it would cost $12,000 for their ICSI and IVF (in-vitro fertilization) treatment.
“We were told because of our age we have a pretty good chance for conceiving,” Trevor says. “But it’s still just a chance.”
“With adoption,” he continues, “if we can get a baby, it’s still going to be $10,000 to $15,000. So we’re going to try and have one of our own first.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to try for your own if it’s not much more than adopting?” adds his wife.
In addition to saving up for the expensive treatment, Trevor and Alisha – along with 17,000 others – have signed a petition on the Generations of Hope website, asking the Alberta government to help fund infertility treatments.
Currently only two provinces offer funding for it.
“Quebec funds three cycles of IVF for any cause. And that includes medication costs,” explains Greene.
“Ontario will partially fund IVF for three treatment cycles if the cause of the infertility is blocked fallopian tubes. Other than that, there is no funding in Canada for fertility treatment.”
Meanwhile in Alberta, one in six couples experiences infertility – a figure that the Stoklosas hope shows others in their situation that they’re not alone.
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News