Dr Woodward said he has observed an upsurge in men with infertility problems at the clinic. The good news is, however, that the IVF Centre, with branches at 1B Rookery Nook, Maraval and Medical Associates, St Joseph, offers the latest fertility treatments for all types of male and female infertility, using revolutionary treatment options.
Each year, various countries around the world observe infertility awareness. Locally, according to Dr Woodward, it is imperative to educate the general public and create greater awareness and understanding about infertility, to help women and men find answers and get the support they need to make important medical decisions and address the medical, emotional, social and economic challenges infertility can present.
He added that it is important to identify and treat any correctable problems and an accurate semen analysis can determine sperm count and sperm quality. The minimal standard sperm count is 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen, the normal sperm count for healthy males can be typically 60 - 80 million per millilitre or higher.
“There are many parameters that need to be accurately assessed in sperm. Unfortunately, many men have had inaccurate tests in the past or simply think that failure to achieve a pregnancy lies with the female. In about half the cases, male infertility is a factor. Causes of male infertility include abnormal sperm production or function, impaired delivery of sperm, general health and lifestyle issues, and exposure to certain environmental factors.
“New research shows that male infertility can also be linked to a range of conditions including environmental exposure and pollution. Chemicals in the environment known as anti-androgens block the action of the male sex-hormone testosterone.”
Dr Woodward said a consultation is necessary to discuss any problems with the reproductive tract. He said the best way to analyse sperm count is by passing a sample under a microscope to determine the quantity.
“A lot of men don’t realise they have a problem. We can help them by using various techniques in the lab. There is one treatment that has revolutionised male fertility called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). We offer that treatment at the centre.
“ICSI has revolutionised male fertility treatment around the world. It’s a method whereby I can take just one sperm and carefully inject it directly into the egg of the woman and that guarantees that the sperm is inside the egg for fertilisation to occur. Even if sperm production is affected, we can now inject a single sperm into an egg to cause fertilisation” he explained.
ICSI is a very effective method to get fertilisation of eggs in the IVF lab after they have been retrieved from the female partner. It involves the use of specialised micromanipulation tools and equipment and inverted microscopes that enable embryologists to select and then pick up individual sperms in a tiny specially designed hollow ICSI needle that is one tenth the thickness of a human hair.
Woodward explained that some men have less than one million sperm and some have no sperm at all.
“I look at how the sperms are moving. In the average man half of his sperm move forward. However, if he has a fertility problem, less than half move forward and they do so very slowly. What we do at the lab is improve the speed of the sperm. We put them into special culture fluid which gives them all the right nutrients like glucose and various minerals. We filter out the poorer ones, the not so good ones and we harvest the good ones, which we use to fertilise the eggs.”
The most common causes of poor fertility rates amongst men are poor nutrition and eating habits, excess alcohol and smoking, hypertension and stress. Although some men can have healthy lifestyles yet still have a low sperm count, Dr Woodward advises that healthy lifestyles should always be a priority.
Dr Woodward can be contacted at the IVF Fertility Centres at Maraval or St Joseph or call 622 8869, or 622 6595 for further information. Interested persons can also visit the Centre’s website at www.trinidadivf.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.