Infertility affects 10% of couples in the UK, and 10–15% of couples in North America. Traditional treatment focuses on the female partner; we believe that equal attention should be given to investigating and treating the man. Such treatment can be easily accessible and inexpensive, and is often effective. Current UK practice provides referral to fertility centres, where methods of artificial reproductive technology (ART) are universally applied. Generally, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), with or without other advanced technologies, such as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), will be offered (IVF using the ICSI technique is typically used when men have a low or even very low sperm count). Availability of IVF treatments varies by region, but the trigger for couples to be referred relates to a period of involuntary infertility. In some regions it is taken into account whether or not the couple has any surviving children by different partners, and the age of the female partner at the time when she is seeking treatment often influences whether or not IVF will be available to her. Often the body mass index (BMI) of the female partner is also taken into account when assessing suitability for treatment, but generally speaking the male partner’s situation is far less relevant. Although the cause of the infertile state may relate to the male partner in 30–50% of cases, the clinical state of the man does not trigger the referral. For this reason, it is rare for the man to be treated in his own right. Generally, the couple is offered a solution to their problem – that is IVF, and this ‘solution’ is presented as a treatment for male infertility. Sadly, it is often the case that the man is told that no treatment is possible, and, worse, further to justify this major intervention, that the couple will never achieve pregnancy by any other method.
Read all about Fertility Solutions in the Parliamentary Review here.